LACEY TOWNSHIP — If Exelon Generation Co. sells the Oyster Creek nuclear plant, another company would handle the lengthy and complex process of dismantling and cleansing the site of radioactive contamination.
And that has residents worried.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, and we are making that clear to them,” Mayor Nicholas Juliano said. “We want them (Exelon) to do it.”
Exelon says it is looking at all options.
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“The company has not made any decisions,” spokeswoman Suzanne D’Ambrosio said at a public meeting on the decommissioning Tuesday night in the Lacey Township Community Hall.
The 50-year-old plant is due to close permanently Sept. 17, and Exelon has submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission a 60-year, $1.4 billion plan for decontaminating and dismantling the property.
Safety of the spent rods of radioactive fuel on site are Juliano’s main concern. The township has a long relationship with Exelon that will be important during the decommissioning process, he said.
The rods will be stored in water for about five years, then transferred on site to dry storage for about 50 years, according to the Exelon plan.
If Exelon sells the plant, the new company would need to submit its own plan to the NRC, said NRC Chief of Decommissioning Bruce Watson.
Watson said the NRC would have to approve a license transfer from Exelon to a new company, and would only do that if the new company passed rigorous financial and technical reviews.
“The NRC’s role is safety,” Watson said. “Whoever is the licensee is responsible for completing decommissioning.”
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He said the NRC has not received an application from Exelon for selling Oyster Creek or transferring the license.
There are two business models for transferring decommissioning to a third party, Watson said.
Exelon could sell the facility outright, and the new owner would be responsible for dismantling the plant and for the spent nuclear fuel until the federal government can move the fuel to a permanent or interim repository.
The Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon, Vermont, is seeking to use that option and sell to a firm called NorthStar, he said. The NRC is still reviewing that application.
There is no high-level nuclear waste repository now, as the federal government’s plans for storage on federal land at Yucca Mountain in Nevada were abandoned after facing strong state and regional opposition. But Watson said two firms have approached the NRC about potentially providing interim storage.
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A second option would be to transfer the plant’s license to a decommissioning firm, have that company do the dismantlement and cleanup, then transfer the license back to the owner. In that case, Exelon would continue to be responsible for the spent fuel, Watson said.
The NRC approved that option for use at Exelon’s Zion Nuclear Power Station in Zion, Illinois, retired in 1998, and La Crosse Boiling Water Reactor in Genoa, Wisconsin, closed in 1987, according to the NRC.
Exelon transferred Zion’s license to EnergySolutions of Salt Lake City in 2010, and Dairyland Power Cooperative transferred its license for La Crosse to LaCrosse Solutions in 2016.