LACEY TOWNSHIP — U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin joined U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd, on Wednesday in supporting federal funding for towns like Lacey that host highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel rods.

The bill, H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2018, is co-sponsored by MacArthur. It would allow the Department of Energy to enter into agreements to pay state, local and tribal governments that host nuclear plants where spent fuel is stored.

Lacey hosted the Oyster Creek nuclear plant for the 49 years of its operation, and now will host a decades-long decommissioning process of decontamination and dismantling buildings and infrastructure, and overseeing about 753 metric tons of nuclear waste.

The measure was approved overwhelmingly by the House of Representatives on May 10 by a vote of 340-72, said MacArthur.

But it has not come up for a vote in the Senate, and Mayor Nicholas Juliano said he has not been able to get either of New Jersey’s two senators to pay attention to the bill.

With the closing of Oyster Creek last month, the township stands to lose some of the $2.3 million in property taxes the plant paid while in operation, officials said.

The township gets an additional $11 million a year in state-dispersed energy receipts for hosting the plant, which the state has said Lacey will continue to get. But officials like Juliano are nervous that a change in state law could take it away.

So Lacey is looking for federal funding to keep its finances in order in the wake of the plant’s closing.

The workforce at the plant is down to about 300 decommissioning workers, from a high of 700 when the plant operated. And the federal government has not made good on its promise to provide a long-term storage facility for the nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, said MacArthur.

“Until they do,” said MacArthur, “towns like Lacey need to be paid.”

It’s a national responsibility, said MacArthur, not a state or local one.

Lacey has paid a price for hosting the plant, which provided electricity that benefited people all over the state, said Hugin.

“(The plant) stopped development in any other way that could have economically benefited Lacey,” he said. “It will be a long time before those 750 acres can be developed in a way to really benefit Lacey in the future.”

Hugin said the costs to Lacey will continue for decades.

“This is a great town for people to raise families and have a high quality of life,” said Hugin. “We have got to ensure we don’t lose this in coming years.”

Exelon wants to sell the plant to Holtec International, of Camden, to be decontaminated and dismantled, and to handle long-term storage of the fuel.

Holtec would get control of a $900 million decommissioning fund if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agrees to let the sale go forward after a financial and technical review.

Hugin, a Republican who is challenging Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez, criticized Menendez for not working to get the bill passed in the Senate, as the senior senator in a state with nuclear power plants here and in Salem County.

“For 30 years, this problem has remained unresolved, and it’s time to finally get the job done,” said Hugin, referring to the federal government’s promise to open Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The Obama administration ended that effort after taxpayers spent billions of dollars there.

According to the NRC, the spent fuel must remain on the Oyster Creek site until federal authorities develop a national waste-storage program.

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Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost

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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