The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission renewed the operating license for Exelon Corp's (EXC.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, the nation's oldest operating nuclear power reactor, the agency said in a statement.

The license was renewed for an additional 20 years, expiring April 9, 2029.

The decision to renew the license comes after thorough and extensive safety and environmental reviews of the application, submitted July 22, 2005, by the plant's operator, AmerGen Energy Co LLC, a subsidiary of Exelon Nuclear Generation Co LLC, the statement said.

The NRC said the application was also reviewed by the NRC's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, an independent body of nuclear safety experts that advises the NRC, and was the subject of an adjudicatory hearing by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, a quasi-judicial arm of the NRC that handles licensing matters.

Challenges to the ASLB's decision were addressed on appeal by the Commission itself.

This has been the most extensive license renewal review to date, including the first adjudicatory hearing of a license renewal application, said Eric Leeds, NRC's director of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.

The staff's licensing and inspection scrutiny, along with the independent contributions of the ACRS, the ASLB and various citizen groups, should give the people of New Jersey added confidence that Oyster Creek will remain safe during its continued operation.

Oyster Creek is the 52nd reactor license renewed by the NRC. Thirteen other applications are under review.

The 619-megawatt plant, which entered service in 1969, is located in Lacey Township in Ocean County, about 60 miles east of Philadelphia.

One MW powers about 800 homes in New Jersey.

Exelon, of Chicago, owns and operates more than 38,000 MW of generating capacity, markets energy commodities. It transmits and distributes electricity to 5.4 million and distributes natural gas to 480,000 customers in Illinois and Pennsylvania. (Reporting by Eileen Moustakis; Editing by John Picinich)