Oyster Creek Decommissioning Could Be Complete In 8 Years

A view of the reactor and associated buildings from inside plant property. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

LACEY – On July 31, Exelon Generation, owner of the Oyster Creek Generating Station, signed a purchase agreement with a New Jersey company for the ownership of the nuclear power plant, which could significantly speed up decommissioning.

Holtec International of Camden wants to purchase Oyster Creek, which officials claim will hasten the decommissioning process by nearly half a century.

Holtec is a global leader in used nuclear fuel management technologies, according to Exelon. The company also plans to take over spent fuel storage and the decommissioning trust fund, should the deal become official.

Under the terms of the purchase agreement, Holtec will take over the decommissioning process, decreasing the decommissioning timeline from Exelon’s estimated 60 years to just 8 years.

“As the new owner of the plant, Holtec will contract with Comprehensive Decommissioning International, LLC (CDI) to perform the decontamination and decommissioning of the plant,” stated Holtec President and CEO, Dr. Kris Singh in a press release. “With its experience and state-of-the-art technologies, CDI is well equipped to decommission Oyster Creek within eight years, more than 50 years ahead of the industry-allowed 60-year timeline.”

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Jeff Tittel, Director of the NJ Sierra Club, has been outspoken in the past about his belief that the plant can be decommissioned in less than 60 years.

“The positives of this purchase are that they plan on decommissioning and cleaning up the plant within eight years instead of 60. This is what the Sierra Club has called for and will be safer for the community and better for the environment,” said Tittel.

However, he also labels transparency and oversight issues as outstanding problems with the purchase. “Our major concern with Holtec taking over the clean-up is that they may cut corners due to the limited funding,” he added.

He stated that the change of hands is cause for concern, but continues to emphasize the benefits of closing Oyster Creek down early. “The sooner they decommission the site, the better off we’ll be. The faster they clean it up, the safer we will be…but we want to know more about the goals of Holtec and their own clean-up proposal,” said Tittel.

The purchase agreement must first be finalized by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Holtec must submit a new decommissioning plan for the plant. The community will again have opportunities for review and comments on the decommissioning plan while the NRC and other regulators evaluate.

Exelon also noted that the transaction will not impact the scheduled shutdown of Oyster Creek, emphasizing that Holtec will speed up the decommissioning process “with the highest standard of safety, quality and environmental stewardship.”

Oyster Creek is scheduled to close down September 17, 2018; a decade earlier than originally planned.

Exelon’s Chief Nuclear Officer Bryan Hanson called it a “landmark agreement.”

“With three decades of experience in nuclear fuel technologies and a partnership with global decommissioning leader SNC-Lavalin, Holtec is ideally positioned to complete the decommissioning of Oyster Creek safely and swiftly,” stated Hanson in the release.

Hanson also noted that Holtec will provide work for employees facing relocation. CDI, Holtec’s contracted decommissioning experts, will be required to employ Oyster Creek decommissioning employees as part of the purchasing agreement.

Further, nuclear spent fuel from Oyster Creek could potentially be sent to an autonomous consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) in New Mexico, pending the approval of Holtec’s license application, according to Exelon. Should Holtec become licensed, it would allow the Oyster Creek site to be viable for unrestricted use sooner, since spent fuel will not be stored on site.

Once the purchasing agreement is finalized and the transaction closed, the decommissioning funds, an upwards of $890 million, will be transferred to Holtec.