Holtec International has agreed to buy Exelon's Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Ocean County and said it will complete the previously announced decommissioning in eight years, far less than the industry-standard 60-year plan proposed by Exelon.
Oyster Creek, which started operating in December 1969 and is among the nation's oldest nuclear power plants, is scheduled to shut down Sept. 17.
The sale, pending regulatory approvals, is expected to close next summer. The price was not disclosed. Exelon said $980 million has been set aside to pay for the decommissioning.
After eight years, all the buildings would be gone and only spent fuel would remain at the site in Lacey Township. At that point, Holtec could "repurpose" the property, though the privately held company has no specific plans, spokesperson Joy Russell said.
Holtec's core business is spent-fuel storage. Founded in 1986 by its president and chief executive Kris Singh, it has systems in place at 110 nuclear plants. The company, based in Jupiter, Fla., employs 400 at a factory and technology campus in Camden. Holtec is also trying to develop a small modular reactor.
The nation's aging full-scale nuclear plants have come under financial pressure as cheaper power from natural-gas generators take market share. Exelon has said it will close Three Mile Island, near Harrisburg, next year unless lawmakers provide a financial bailout.
To take advantage of the business opportunity at Oyster Creek, Holtec formed Comprehensive Decommissioning International LLC, or CDI, a joint venture with SNC-Lavalin, a Montreal engineering and construction firm. Holtec awarded Camden-based CDI a contract to perform the decontamination and dismantlement of Oyster Creek, a job worth "hundreds of millions of dollars," CDI said in a news release.
Holtec said it will take the $980 million trust fund, when the deal closes, and use it to cover the cost of the decommissioning. No additional money will be needed from consumers, Holtec said.
When SNC-Lavelin and Holtec announced their joint venture on July 18, they said "decommissioning has become a rapid-growth market," with a value forecast at more than $14 billion over the next 10 years.
Longer term, Holtec hopes to move the spent fuel from Oyster Creek to what it called an "autonomous consolidated interim storage facility" in New Mexico that would accept spent nuclear fuel from all U.S. plants. In a partnership with the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance, named for two counties in southeast New Mexico, Holtec has submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the facility, Russell said.
Although Holtec is spending $24 million to $25 million on that licensing effort, construction would require legislation from Congress, Russell said. The first phase of the project is projected to cost $200 million, money that would have to come from Congress, she said.
If the New Mexico storage facility is built, the Oyster Creek spent fuel would go there, allowing "Holtec to return the full site to unrestricted use," Holtec said in a separate news release.
As part of the deal with Exelon, Holtec has agreed to offer jobs to an expected 300 decommissioning employees, Russell said. The plant currently employs 400.