Would-Be Nuclear Plant Owner Submits Revised Decommissioning Plan for Oyster Creek

Oct 17, 2018

Less than a month after submitting a license renewal application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Holtec International Inc., a New Jersey-based company known globally for its used nuke fuel management technologies and interested in purchasing the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station from its current owners, submitted a revised report outlining its decommissioning plans for the plant.

The Holtec Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report will be reviewed separately from the license transfer application, according to Neil Sheehan, public information officer for the NRC Region 1 office. The license transfer provides information on how and why the company is financially and technically capable of handling the Oyster Creek decommissioning as well as managing the spent nuclear fuel storage onsite for the foreseeable future, he said. In their joint license renewal application, the two companies requested that the NRC adhere to a schedule to help meet a May 1, 2019, deadline for its decision on ownership.

It’s not out of line for Holtec to submit its own revised schedule for decommissioning activities at Oyster Creek, Sheehan said, noting Exelon Generation had filed its own report decades before dismantlement would begin.

“Holtec is proposing an expedited schedule that seeks to have the work completed within about a decade,” he said. “As such, it needed to submit a PSDAR that reflected the significant change and that spells out how it would accomplish that work.”

The revised PSDAR, submitted Sept. 28, highlights the accelerated schedule for the prompt decommissioning of Oyster Creek and the unrestricted release of the site, with the exclusion of the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation, or spent fuel pad, on site.

“This DECON PSDAR is contingent upon NRC approval of the LTA (license transfer application), completion of transfer of the licenses and asset sale closure. If the licenses are not transferred, this DECON PSDAR will be ineffective, and the May 21, 2018 PSDAR submitted by Exelon Generation will remain in effect,” according to the revised PSDAR. “Exelon Generation has reviewed the contents of this letter and is aligned.”

The Master Summary Schedule is based on the assumptions that the licenses are transferred to Holtec in July 2019, according to the report.

From the beginning, Holtec officials have said the company’s preferred method for decommissioning Oyster Creek was a DECON, or decontamination, method, in which equipment, structures and portions of the facility and site that contain radioactive contaminants are promptly removed and decontaminated to a level that permits termination of the license shortly after cessation of operations.

The one timeline change from an Aug. 15 meeting with the NRC and Exelon Generation is the transfer of spent nuclear fuel to the ISFSI. Under the revised PSDAR report, that activity is slated to be finalized in 2023, providing for the complete dismantlement of the reactor and turbine buildings. Radiological decommissioning, according to the revised plan, is expected to be completed by 2024. That would allow full release of the Route 9 site, located on 779 acres of land in the Forked River section of Lacey Township, with the except of the spent fuel pad.

In August, Holtec’s expedited timeline called for this process to begin with still-hot spent fuel being moved sometime next year and a 2021 completion date, with a full removal from the site by 2034 and full license termination by 2035.

“The Oyster Creek spent fuel is projected to be accepted by the DOE (Department of Energy) for shipment away from the Oyster Creek site in the years 2034 and 2035,” according to the revised report. “Spent fuel storage operations continue at the site, independent of decommissioning operations, until the transfer of the fuel to the DOE is complete. At that time, the ISFSI is decommissioned and the site released for unrestricted use.”

The NRC is currently reviewing applications for two potential interim sites to house spent nuclear fuel, one in Texas and the other in New Mexico. In the meantime, the only option for U.S. nuclear power plants is to store spent fuel from the reactor vessel on site.

Just last month, the deadline to request a public hearing on Holtec International’s interim repository in New Mexico closed. However, there is still time to request a public hearing for a similar spent fuel facility in West Texas. That window closes Oct. 29. The federal agency resumed reviewing the application after it received two letters, dated June 8 and July 19, from Interim Storage Partners, a joint venture between Waste Control Specialists and Orano CIS LLC.

“We consider both the spent fuel pool and dry cask storage to be safe methods of storing spent nuclear fuel at the site,” Sheehan said. “The spent fuel management plan helps ensure there is a program in place to adequately carrying out that plan, including the provision of funding.”

Dry cask storage has been in use at nuclear power plants for more than three decades, beginning with the Surry Power Station in Virginia. At one time, it was thought to be a temporary solution to house spent fuel. That changed when the Yucca Mountain repository, located about 90 miles from Las Vegas, dead-ended.

— Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

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