NRC Greenlights Oyster Creek License Transfer for Decommissioning by Camden-Based Energy Company

By GINA G. SCALA | Jun 20, 2019
File Photo by: Jack Reynolds The Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township.

Washington, D.C. — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Thursday, June 20 it approved the transfer of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station license to Oyster Creek Environmental Protection and Holtec Decommissioning International. Both are subsidiaries of Holtec International, an energy technology company based in Camden.

Under the NRC order, Oyster Creek Environmental Protection is the new owner of the defunct Lacey Township-based power plant, once the oldest operating commercial nuclear station in the country. Holtec Decommissioning International is now the decommissioning operator for Oyster Creek. Exelon Generation, part of the Exelon Corp. fleet of nuclear power plants, owned and operated the plant for the past two decades.

“This rapid regulatory approval is a significant achievement for our company and the industry as we undertake the prompt decommissioning of Oyster Creek,” Holtec President and Chief Executive Officer Kris Singh said in a joint statement with Exelon officials announcing the license transfer. “Approval of the License Transfer in a mere nine months from the date of application is a testament to the strong regulatory and financial profile of our company, the quality of our submittal to the NRC and the organizational efficiency of the NRC.”

Exelon Generation and Holtec are expected to formally complete the sales transaction sometime in July. At that time, Holtec will assume ownership of the site, real property and used nuclear fuel. Holtec will also assume the responsibility to manage the plant’s decommissioning trust fund, which will cover the cost of decommissioning.

“In reviewing the license transfer application, the NRC staff considered OCEP's and HDI’s technical and financial qualifications, the adequacy of Oyster Creek’s decommissioning trust funds to complete the radiological decommissioning of the plant and the adequacy of plans to manage the onsite storage of spent nuclear fuel until it can be removed for storage or disposal elsewhere,” said the NRC. “The staff concluded that OCEP and HDI met the regulatory, legal, technical and financial requirements necessary to qualify as licensees.”

The license transfer includes the dry cask spent fuel storage installation at Oyster Creek, which permanently ceased operations in September 2018, more than 14 months earlier than anticipated when the company agreed to cease operations in 2019 instead of building cooling towers onsite. It was licensed to operate until 2029 under a license extension approval granted by the NRC in April 2009.

Prior to issuing its order approving the transfer, the NRC June 18 denied two requests for an adjudicatory hearing challenging it.

“With respect to both the Lacey Township and the Sierra Club requests, the Commission found that there were no contentions submitted that met our admissibility requirements for this kind of proceeding,” Neil Sheehan, public information officer for the NRC’s Region 1 office, said June 20.

Exelon Generation, Holtec Decommissioning International and Oyster Creek Environmental Protection submitted the license transfer request in August 2018. In its Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report for the Oyster Creek plant, submitted last fall, the new owners highlighted an accelerated schedule for the prompt decommissioning and unrestricted release of the site.

“We will do as much as we can to continue providing an economic benefit to the community,” Pierre Oneid, Holtec senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, said. “We are pleased to report that more than 200 Oyster Creek employees have accepted employment offers and will support our decommissioning efforts. In addition, the decommissioning project will draw an influx of specialized decommissioning personnel who will join the project at different stages, boosting the local economy.”

In the joint statement announcing the license transfer, Carol Peterson, Exelon Nuclear senior vice president of strategy and planning, thanked the employees who safely operated Oyster Creek for nearly five decades and those staying on for the next phase.

“We also wish to express our deep appreciation to the local community for its long-standing and ongoing support of the station,” Peterson said.

With the Oyster Creek license transfer successfully in place, Holtec officials are turning their attention to the sale of the Massachusetts-based Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, which is also expected to be finalized during the third quarter. The Plymouth-based nuclear plant was shuttered less than a month ago. Its license transfer application was filed on Nov. 16, 2018.

In addition to Pilgrim, Holtec also has agreements to purchase other Energy Nuclear Operations-owned power plants, including Indian Point, Palisades and the independent spent fuel storage facility located at Big Rock Point.

“Decommissioning both Pilgrim and Oyster Creek will yield excellent operational synergies, enabling us to adopt best practices and methodologies to maximize safety and efficiency at both sites,” Joy Russell, Holtec senior vice president and chief strategy officer, said.

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