LACEY – For a half a century, the Oyster Creek Generating Station provided a portion of electrical energy to the state’s power grid. The facility is currently undergoing a decommissioning process but a new development may see a small nuclear reactor at the facility.
Township Mayor Peter Curatolo is happy that Camden based Holtec Decommissioning International, (HDI) charged with the decommissioning of the aged nuclear power plant, is now looking at its Oyster Creek property for their location of a prototype nuclear reactor.
The mayor told The Southern Ocean Times that “any time there is a partnership between major organizations wherein things are completed in a safe, effective and timely manner, that is a real value added to Lacey, it’s infrastructure and its people.”
The mayor said that he welcomed any opportunity for expansion and “the possibility of increasing employment in our town. I would support that. I’m very comfortable with the level of security there and the level of federal oversight (of decommissioning) that continues at the plant location.”
Holtec is joining forces with a subsidiary of South Korean automaker Hyundai to construct the prototype that could be based in Lacey at some time in the future. The firm, based at the Krishna P. Singh Technology Campus in Camden, recently announced the new partnership to construct its SMR-160 plant. The project is described as a “small modular reactor” that is intended to cut costs for nuclear power and invigorate nuclear power’s position in electrical markets. The prototype is expected to be finished by 2030 according to experts at Holtec.
Mayor Curatolo said, “when an international company such as Hyundai wants to engage in business in our township, and multiple levels of oversight are in place to ensure safety, that is a win for our town, its economy and its people.”
“Holtec has partnered with Hyundai to have them perform the detail design of the balance of plant’s systems to support Holtec’s SMR-160 reactor that is under development,” Site Vice President Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station Jeff Dostal said.
The sale of Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station to Holtec became final in July of 2019. Dostal is responsible for the safe and efficient operation of spent fuel storage systems as well as decommissioning efforts. Prior to this he was the director of site decommissioning/ plant manager under Exelon Nuclear which previously owned Oyster Creek.
While Holtec has expressed strong interest in Oyster Creek for the proposed reactor, other sites are also under consideration for the project.
Members of Lacey’s citizen oversight group previously expressed to township officials their concerns about transparency between Holtec and the community. Lacey officials also shared concerns about the plant’s decommissioning, and the reduction of its commercial tax base and the impact that would have on taxes.
The mayor noted that even a smaller, new power plant would be a benefit for Lacey as it could fill the void when the original facility vanishes completely – and its yearly tax bill disappears as well.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, SMRs (small modular reactors) like the one Holtec being proposed, are expected to be part of the nation’s future energy landscape. Department officials stated SMRs take up less space than older plants, are cheaper to construct, and assist to make America more energy independent.
The department has provided grants for millions of dollars to firms supporting research and development of new technology. Holtec was such a recipient, having received $6.3 million for its research in new reactor designs. Holtec subsidiary SMR LLC, which is also based in Holtec’s Camden plant, received $1.6 million from the Department of Energy toward its small modular reaction testing and safety system performance research.
Janet Tauro, who serves as New Jersey Board Chair of Clean Water Action, told The Southern Ocean Times that her organization was not in favor of the idea. “The last thing we need is another nuclear reactor at a site that has millions of gallons of waste material still in their fuel pool.”
She expressed concerns of where Oyster Creek’s current nuclear waste would end up, noting that Holtec’s application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a consolidated interim storage facility that would be based in New Mexico has not been approved and is facing resistance by residents and officials of that state.
“Nothing is happening any time soon – if at all – and we don’t want to saddle other people with other state’s nuclear waste.” She noted spent nuclear fuel rods on site at Oyster Creek must be removed from their storage casks every 20 years and put into new containers.
“This is a bad idea. Ocean County shouldn’t be a test case for unproven technology. Oyster Creek is the first nuclear power plant that Holtec has decommissioned. It is needless to expose Ocean County to that risk. Spent fuel rods should be nowhere near another nuclear reactor,” she added.