Oyster Creek plant aerial

Oyster Creek Generating Station, the oldest operating nuclear plant in the country, produces 636 net megawatts of electricity at full power, enough to supply 600,000 typical homes. It is scheduled to close this fall.

LACEY TOWNSHIP — The almost 50-year-old Oyster Creek nuclear plant will spend more time being decontaminated and dismantled than it did making electricity.

Owner Exelon Generation Co. has proposed a 60-year, $1.4 billion plan for returning the site to any type of use after the plant closes this fall.

Under the plan, recently submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, plant shutdown and defueling will start Sept. 17 and finish Sept. 30.

That would be followed by about 1.5 years of preparing for 55 years of dormancy, during which time spent fuel would be stored in wet pools for five years, then moved to dry storage and ultimately removed to a facility approved by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“The faster they can get (the waste) into dry cask storage and get rid of the pools, the better,” New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said.

The plant will then be less vulnerable to flooding and emission of radioactivity during coastal storms, he said.

Lacey Mayor Nicholas Juliano has said the plant is a good neighbor and he’s sorry to see it go. He is advocating for a company to come in and build a new natural-gas plant somewhere on the site, since it could easily hook into the electric grid through facilities already there.

Once spent fuel rods are stored in dry casks, the plant’s use of water will be greatly reduced, and water that is released will no longer cause substantial thermal pollution in Barnegat Bay, Tittel said.

Sierra Club and other environmental groups have long advocated for the closing of the nation’s oldest operating nuclear plant. The groups said the superheated water it has sent into the bay has damaged fish and the entire ecosystem.

The plan said the amount of water used during the post-closure is “trivial compared to those when a plant is operating.”

The plant will use about 360 million gallons of water per day during the first 60 days after shutdown, then decrease to 17.5 million gallons a day after about nine months. That amount will be used for about 5.5 years to cool spent fuel rods in pools.

After the spent fuel goes into dry storage, “the discharge of waste heat to Barnegat Bay ... will end,” the plan states.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the agency will review the plan and accept it only if it meets regulatory requirements.

The 60-year project would be funded by money already put aside by plant owners during the operation period.

After the fuel is able to be removed, the company estimates it will take another five years to dismantle the plant piece by piece, after which its license could be terminated and the 800-acre site remediated, according to the plan.

Exelon announced earlier this year the plant would close in October, and Wednesday said it had submitted a WARN notice to the state saying 84 jobs would be eliminated at the plant because those holding them had elected not to take other positions within Exelon. An additional 400 employees either took other jobs or will stay at Oyster Creek for at least part of the decommissioning process, a company spokesperson said.

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Contact: 609-272-7219 MPost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost Facebook.com/EnvironmentSouthJersey

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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