Federal regulators on Thursday gave their blessings to a plan to accelerate the $885 million decommissioning of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, which shut down operations in Lacey Township, N.J., last year.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the transfer of the reactor’s license from Exelon Generation Co. to a subsidiary of Holtec International Inc., a nuclear services provider with headquarters in Camden. Holtec has developed a specialty in handling spent nuclear fuel and dismantling retired reactors.

The decommissioning will largely be concentrated in 2019 through 2025, but completed by 2035, according to a schedule submitted to the NRC. Under law, the owner could have taken up to 60 years to dismantle the plant and restore the site.

Exelon Corp.'s Oyster Creek reactor in Ocean County, N.J., shown in this aerial photo, shut down in September, 2018.
TIM MCCARTHY /Asbury Park Press, File
Exelon Corp.'s Oyster Creek reactor in Ocean County, N.J., shown in this aerial photo, shut down in September, 2018.

Holtec is hiring 200 of 600 Oyster Creek employees to work on the decommissioning. In addition, the other experts will be hired to assist in the project at various stages, Pierre Oneid, Holtec senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, said in a statement.

The company will pay the decommissioning costs from a $848 million trust fund that built up from payments collected from customers during 49 years of operations. The owner anticipates the fund, conservatively invested, will generate $46 million in interest income in the coming years that will also go toward decommissioning.

Oyster Creek, a 625-megawatt boiling water reactor, was built by General Public Utilities. Ownership transferred to Exelon in 2003.

Exelon secured a license renewal through to 2029, but announced in 2010 that it planned to shut down the reactor by 2019 rather than install a costly cooling tower required under new environmental standards to reduce the temperature of the water it discharges into Barnegat Bay.