Lacey officials hold a forum on replacing the Oyster Creek Generating Station. IPHONE VIDEO BY BOB VOSSELLER
LACEY – The Oyster Creek Generating Station will be shut down for good in October – more than a year ahead of schedule – according to an announcement Friday from Exelon Generation citing costs and other issues.
Environment advocates said the announcement was good news for Barnegat Bay and blamed the plant for fish kills and algal blooms. The plant’s cooling system draws water from the bay, then releases it back out.
Advocates also believe there are other safety issues.”It’s really a ’69 Chevy Nova in the age of the Tesla,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “There are serious problems in the plant.”
The power plant had been licensed to operate through 2029. But in 2010, representatives for Exelon and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) agreed to move the timeline up by a decade.
Friday’s announcement came as news to township officials. Township Administrator Veronica Laureigh said Lacey had just become aware of the shutdown Friday.
The plant employs approximately 500 people, according to the announcement. Some will stay on after the shutdown and work on decommissioning the plant, according to Friday’s announcement.
In the video below, plant spokeswoman Suzanne D’Ambrosio discusses the shutdown in a 2017 interview.
Suzanne D’Ambrosio, communications manager at Oyster Creek Generating Station, talks about what will happen when the nuclear power plant shuts down at Oyster Creek Training Center in Forked River. Staff video Tanya Breen
“This new schedule allows Exelon to meet that commitment while helping employees find jobs elsewhere in the company and managing costs,” according to the announcement.
“We will offer a position elsewhere in Exelon to every employee that wishes to stay with the company, and we thank our neighbors for the privilege of allowing us to serve New Jersey for almost 50 years,” Exelon President Bryan Hanson wrote in the announcement.
Those offers may not be in New Jersey, however.
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“”We’re working with our employees to help place them in the jobs in locations where they want to go,” plant spokeswoman Suzanne D’Ambrosio said Friday. “Exelon has a very large presence and we’re opening up that availability.”
D’Ambrosio was not able to say if employees would be guaranteed the same pay rate.
What effect the shutdown will have on local businesses is not yet clear, but Laureigh said there should be no short-term impact on the township tax base.
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“Even though they stopped operating, they’re still physically going to stop producing energy, the’re still here for a minimum of 10 more years,” Laureigh said. Beyond that, the physical structures will remain on the tax rolls until they are decommissioned.
D’Ambrosio lists some of the nuts and bolts of the decommissioning process in the video below, from a 2017 interview.
Suzanne D’Ambrosio, communications manager at Oyster Creek Generating Station, talks about the plans for the decommission of the nuclear power plant at Oyster Creek Training Center in Forked River. Staff video Tanya Breen
Laureigh said Exelon has remained a cooperative member of the local community, sponsoring events and getting involved with sports organizations.
“For the past half century Oyster Creek has safely been operating in New Jersey, with clean, reliable electricity,” Laureigh said. “I’m sure it will continue to safely operate and safely decommission in accordance with the guidelines of the DEP and the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission).”
In this 2017 interview, then-Mayor Peter Curatolo discusses the future of Lacey post-Oyster Creek.
Lacey Township Mayor Peter Curatolo speaks about his plans for the township after the closing of the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant. STAFF VIDEO BY THOMAS P. COSTELLO
Some advocates took a less rosy view of the plant’s history.
“The plant is the largest thermal polluter in the (Barnegat) Bay,” Tittel said. “They’ve had some massive fish kills where the water in the bay has gone over 96 degrees.”
Like Tittel, Janet Tauro, the New Jersey board chair for Clean Water Action, hailed the shutdown as good news for Barnegat Bay.
“They have been polluting Barnegat Bay with their thermal pollution ever since they began operation, so closing it down, you know, is going to remedy that,” Tauro said.
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Tauro said she also had concerns about spent fuel stored at the plant. The plant has been putting out power for half a century – and the radioactive waste from that generation is still on site. The ultimate fate of that waste is not yet clear, though Congress has recently considered new options for long-term storage.
The NRC allows 60 years for decommissioning, and the clock does not start until the end of the plant’s final cycle in October, D’Ambrosio said.
In October, then-Gov. Chris Christie telegraphed that the plant’s closing procedures were running ahead of schedule. But officials for the power company denied an early shutdown.
“While we are ahead of schedule with decommissioning planning for Oyster Creek, we (are) committed to operate the plant until December, 2019 and we will fulfill those commitments,” D’Ambrosio said in an October email.
Though the timetable is new, the shutdown has been in the works for years. Watch township residents and officials discuss it in the video at the top of this article.
Ed. note: Suzanne D’Ambrosio is married to Asbury Park Press News Director Paul D’Ambrosio. He did not read this story prior to publication.
Alex N. Gecan: @GeeksterTweets; 732-643-4043; email@example.com
Contributing: Amanda Oglesby
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