ine nuclear watchdog and environmental groups filed petitions with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Jan. 3 to block the license renewals of four nuclear powerplants, including the 636-MW Oyster Creek plant in Lacey Township, N.J. That facility has come under fire as reports of deteriorating conditions at the 19-year-old plant have circulated. In August, an NRC engineer told the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board that steel surrounding the plant’s nuclear reactor had rusted to the point that it no longer met code standards of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Although the engineer later changed his position, questions about the safety of the plant remain. Owner AmerGen Energy Co., Warrenville, Ill., argues that Oyster Creek is safe and predicts that NRC will issue a new 20-year license some time during the first quarter of this year. “We put millions of dollars into plant maintenance annually,” says AmerGen spokeswoman Beth Rapczynski.