- Exelon Generation is selling Oyster Creek nuclear power plant to Holtec International, in a deal aimed at speeding the decommissioning process at the New Jersey facility.
- Exelon announced earlier this year it would shutter Oyster Creek in the fall in order to avoid rising costs. It is the oldest operating nuclear plant in the United States, entering service in 1969.
- Holtec also plans to purchase two Entergy nuclear plants post shut-down — the Pilgrim power station in Massachusetts and the Palisades plant in Michigan. Entergy announced the agreement, which is subject to regulatory approval, on Wednesday.
Nuclear plant owners have a 60-year timeline for decommissioning plants after they have shuttered, but this year two generators are looking to external experts to accelerate the process.
Entergy previously reached a deal with Northstar Group Services to decommission its Vermont Yankee plant, which shut down in 2014.
Exelon wants to sell the Oyster Creek plant to Holtec, which would then contract with Comprehensive Decommissioning International (CDI) to decontaminate and decommission the plant. CDI is a joint venture company of Holtec and SNC-Lavalin, and in a statement the companies said CDI is "well equipped to decommission Oyster Creek within eight years," more than five decades ahead of the allowed timeline.
Holtec also expects to complete all major decomissioning work on Entergy's Pilgrim plant in approximately eight years, starting in 2020. A decommissioning timeline for the Palisades plant will be developed closer to its intended shutdown in 2022, according to Entergy's press release.
Bryan Hanson, Exelon Generation's chief nuclear officer, called the Oyster Creek deal a "landmark agreement" that is good news for employees, the local community and the state. Holtec "will allow many of our employees previously facing relocation to continue living and working in the Garden State," Hanson said in a statement.
Pending approvals, Exelon and Holtec said the transaction could close in the third quarter of 2019 and the arrangement will not impact the shutdown schedule at Oyster Creek. Holtec must submit a new decommissioning plan to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which will then go through a public review and comment process.
Holtec said it recently submitted a license application for an "autonomous consolidated interim storage facility" in New Mexico, and Oyster Creek's waste could be sent there.
Some analysts worry that quicker decomissioning could lead to accidents. "In a rush to secure a possible — and by no means certain — quick clean-up of the site, the settlement excludes reasonable protection for Vermont communities," the Conservation Law Foundation warned in a statement regarding the Vermont Yankee plan.
Holtec and Exelon said CDI would be "accelerating Oyster Creek’s decommissioning timeline with the highest standard of safety, quality and environmental stewardship."
The decision to shut down Oyster Creek comes amid several other recent nuclear plant closures. The facility was originally slated to close in 2019, along with Entergy’s Pilgrim and Exelon's Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.