LACEY – A settlement has been reached to end multiple litigations between Lacey Township and Holtec International.
The agreement will permit additional nuclear waste to be sorted outside the former Oyster Creek Generating Station previously owned by Exelon.
Members of the Lacey Planning Board voted to approve a settlement agreement that would dissolve lawsuits launched by the township toward Holtec, as well as Holtec toward Lacey.
A public hearing was required to be held before the measure could be voted on according to Planning Board Attorney Terry Brady. The litigation concerned aspects of Holtec International’s ongoing decommissioning of the nuclear power plant which was the oldest operating facility of its type until it ceased operation in recent years.
The in-person forum was held at the courtroom/municipal building and addressed Holtec’s application to add 20 fuel storage models (bringing it up to 68) on the site.
The Planning Board unanimously voted to approve a resolution prepared by Brady who read the lengthy agreement during the meeting. It allows Holtec to move nuclear waste from the facility’s cooling pool into 20 new steel and concrete storage casks. There are 48 casks currently present at the site, west of Route 9.
The new settlement permits the addition of 20 new storage casks, a security fence and the construction of a cask transfer pad on the already developed portion of the site. The cask site is intended as temporary. The federal government hasn’t approved a permanent location to store nuclear waste.
Holtec has applied to build an interim storage site in southeast New Mexico and if its application is approved, such material would be removed from Lacey to that location. Holtec has yet to reveal details of how the waste would be transferred or approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Holtec’s website suggests a rail line would be used.
Regina Discenza was the only resident to speak during the public hearing. She commented after the meeting, “I think it’s hysterical that they think they’re moving the spent fuel to New Mexico, ever!”
It was recently reported that Holtec will receive $116 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to start a program to build small, modular nuclear reactors in the United States.
The firm’s new plant design is intended to prevent reactors from overheating to avert a nuclear meltdown. This new reactor design has not yet received license approval.
Prior to the meeting New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel issued a statement saying it was “critical that Lacey Township turns down this application that would allow Holtec to expand their facility and deposit more nuclear casks. This process heightens the risk of major accidents and spills, threatening the health and safety of the community and the environment.”
Tittel was critical of the live format of the forum. “it’s shameful that in the middle of a public health emergency, the Lacey Planning Board is still going forward with an in-person public hearing for Holtec’s new application and settlement for its decommissioning plan of Oyster Creek. This isn’t just some small-time application; we are talking about radioactive waste.”
The Lacey Planning Board unanimously rejected Holtec’s application on September 14.
Holtec had recently filed a lawsuit concerning its proposal to decommission the power plant.
Planning Board members stated at the time that there were serious concerns that the radioactive waste would never leave the township. The board declared Holtec “mischaracterized” its project as a temporary storage site, contending the firm offered “absolutely no representation as to how many decades or even centuries the ‘temporary’ storage will last.”
Holtec said their application for additional casks and other changes at the 140-acre site “met all of Lacey Township’s land use and development regulations.” Their suit brought in the Ocean County Superior Court describes the board’s decision as “an active display of bias” against Holtec.
It asserted the board violated the state’s Municipal Land Use Law, as well as local ordinances and state regulations. In addition to the order of restraint in Ocean County and an investigation for their Camden facility, Holtec is also facing a court challenge against their effort to build a storage site for U.S. nuclear waste in New Mexico.
Lacey Committeeman Mark Dykoff was present at the Planning Board meeting as a liaison to the Township Committee. He spoke last month during a Committee meeting about a meeting that had been held which may have laid the ground work of the evening’s settlement agreement.
Dykoff was among those at that meeting. “Holtec put up a planning board application that was denied for a variety of reasons. Myself, attorney Jerry Dasti and Patrick Barber, Committeeman (Timothy) McDonald, Business Administrator Veronica Laureigh and the Planning Board attorney as well, met with representatives of Holtec and Dr. (Hearst) Singh.”
“Holtec is a privately owned company, owned by Dr. Hearst Singh and he calls the shots. It was a very fruitful meeting and he told us things in two to 10 minutes that I didn’t know about decommissioning. We did discuss that as always, we need better communication,” Dykoff said.
Dykoff added, “from Holtec’s standpoint, they said the communication was there but we need them to walk us through it. We’re infants in this so we need to learn to walk. There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes that we can’t really let the public be privy to because of pending litigation, ongoing negotiations, and things like that.”
“We want the quickest, safest decommissioning of Oyster Creek which is why we went to Camden to meet Dr. Singh and his group, to try and get some assurances and ideas of what is going to go there,” Dykoff added.
The public has voiced concerns about Holtec’s plan to move still-hot nuclear waste out of water pools and into dry cask storage in half the usual time of around five years. The company has stated their casks are proprietary and have not disclosed details about their design to the public.
According to environmentalists, until the rods are out of the spent-fuel pools and put into dry cask storage, the plant is extremely vulnerable. If there is a power outage, storm surge, or flood, the rods could melt down and create serious public health and environmental damage.
“It is alarming that Holtec wants to ship nuclear waste from New Jersey, New England, and New York to New Mexico. This nuclear waste would travel through New Jersey, putting our communities at risk from an accident or terrorist attack. They are trying to ship this waste by barge, truck or rail and could create a mobile Chernobyl. This is not a solution, this is a disaster waiting to happen,” Tittel said in a prepared statement.
“If they aren’t storing the nuclear rods correctly, it could lead to environmental or public safety problems down the road. New Jersey needs to step in to make sure that they are following safety protocols and to ensure transparency.”