Oyster Creek licence transfer approved

21 June 2019

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the transfer of Oyster Creek's licence from Exelon Generation Co to Oyster Creek Environmental Protection (OCEP), as owner, and Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI), as decommissioning operator.

Oyster Creek (Image: Exelon)

The NRC's order, which was issued on 20 June, is effective immediately but the transfer will not be finalised until the transaction between Exelon, OCEP and HDI is completed. Now NRC approval has been received, Holtec says it expects the transaction to be formally completed in July, after which Holtec will assume ownership of the site, "real" property and used nuclear fuel. Holtec will also assume responsibility for managing the plant's decommissioning trust fund (DTF), which will cover the cost of decommissioning.

“This rapid regulatory approval is a significant achievement for our company and the industry as we undertake the prompt decommissioning of Oyster Creek," Holtec President and CEO Kris Singh said.

The three companies requested the licence transfer in August 2018 after Exelon agreed to sell the 619 MWe single-unit boiling water reactor plant to Holtec for expedited decommissioning. Although licensed to operate until 2029, Exelon had decided in 2010 to retire the plant early after revisions to New Jersey's water use rules would have required it to build new cooling towers at an estimated cost of more than USD800 million. Oyster Creek was the oldest operating nuclear power plant in the USA when it retired in September.

In reviewing the licence transfer application, the NRC said its staff considered OCEP's and HDI's technical and financial qualifications, the adequacy of Oyster Creek's decommissioning trust funds to complete the radiological decommissioning of the plant, and the adequacy of plans to manage the onsite storage of used nuclear fuel until it can be removed for storage or disposal elsewhere.

"The staff concluded that OCEP and HDI met the regulatory, legal, technical and financial requirements necessary to qualify as licensees," the regulator said. It denied two requests for an adjudicatory hearing challenging the licence transfer.

Holtec plans to ship the site's used nuclear fuel to a consolidated interim storage facility, HI-STORE, currently undergoing licensing in New Mexico. In the meantime, canisters of used fuel will be stored on site.

Holtec has also agreed to purchase the Indian Point, Palisades and Pilgrim nuclear units from Entergy, following those plants' planned closures. Pilgrim, in Massachusetts, retired earlier this month and Holtec said it expects the sale of the plant, which is of a similar design similar to Oyster Creek, to occur in the third quarter of this year.

“Decommissioning both Pilgrim and Oyster Creek will yield excellent operational synergies, enabling us to adopt best practices and methodologies to maximise safety and efficiency at both sites," Holtec Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Joy Russell said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News