The Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township shut down Monday afternoon. Oyster Creek was the oldest commercially operating nuclear power plant in the United States.
Oyster Creek first began operating in December 1969. According to the plant’s operator, Exelon, the single-reactor plant produced 636 megawatts of zero-emissions energy which was enough electricity to power 600,000 homes. Exelon employs around 600 workers at its 700-acre site in Ocean County, and thousands more worked there over the decades.
Earlier in 2018, Exelon agreed to sell Oyster Creek to Holtec International, which will decommission the plant. As part of the agreement, Holtec received approximately $980 million to cover decommissioning costs. That sale is subject to regulatory approvals, including from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and is expected to be finalized in about a year. Following the final approval, Holtec said it would offer jobs to some of the Oyster Creek employees.
Holtec plans to accelerate the decommissioning timeline at Oyster Creek to within eight years, or more than 50 years ahead of the 60-year industry-allowed timeline. Decommissioning a plant is a multi-step process, which includes removing fuel from the reactor core, transporting and securing used fuel and monitoring for radiation. Holtec is seeking a license to store spent nuclear fuel at a storage facility in New Mexico.
Holtec has promised a swift and safe decommissioning of the plant.
“It is with wistful pride that we, a New Jersey-born company, which has spread around the globe, will take over the state’s oldest nuclear plant and decommission it with the latest technologies that will preserve the pristine New Jersey shore and accrete minimal dose to the workers,” explained Holtec’s President and CEO Dr. Kris Singh in a press release issued following its purchase of Oyster Creek in July.
Oyster Creek is one of only three nuclear plants in New Jersey. The others are the Salem and Hope Creek Generating Stations, which operate in Salem County. After Oyster Creek closes, there will be 98 nuclear plants still operating in the United States.