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NJ SIERRA CLUB: More Problems with Holtec at Oyster Creek Decommissioning

Ocean County Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson has issued a temporary order of restraint to Holtec, stopping all decommissioning activities at Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station. Lacey Township, the community where the nuclear plant is located, filed a complaint against Holtec Down the shoreInternational and Holtec Decommissioning International in late May. Holtec is also under criminal investigation by the NJ Economic Development Authority for misrepresenting information on its 2014 tax credit application. 


“There are serious concerns with the Holtec and the decommissioning of Oyster Creek. From the beginning of their deal with Exelon, we were troubled by the lack of transparency and public input. Now Judge Hodgson has shown that these concerns are true. Holtec doesn’t want to show Lacey Township their site plan or what they’re going to do on the site. We need the plant to be decommissioned safely and quickly, and Holtec isn’t proving to be up to the task,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Holtec doesn’t seem to care about protecting the environment or public safety. The quicker and cheaper they get it done, the more money they can make. This provides an incentive to cut corners without proper oversight and lessening their liability. They will not be able to cover the damage costs and the burden will be on taxpayers.”


Holtec has been facing challenges for multiple different projects. Aside from the order of restraint in Ocean County and the EDA investigation for their Camden facility, the company is also facing another court challenge against their effort to build a storage site for U.S. nuclear waste in New Mexico. They also recently reached a settlement with Massachusetts after the state challenged the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of Holtec’s proposal to decommission the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in 8 years. 


“This is just the latest red flag in a series of red flags. They’re under investigation by the EDA for lying on their tax forms for building another facility in Camden. They have run into problems in Canada and they are still facing legal challenges in their efforts to build a nuclear waste storage site in New Mexico. They also went through months of negotiations in Massachusetts because the state was challenging NRC’s approval of Holtec’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station decommissioning,” said Jeff Tittel. “Governor Murphy, the Attorney General, DEP, and especially the state nuclear inspector need to come in and take this over so there will be stricter oversight. They need to require more transparency and openness during this process.”


The public is concerned about Holtec’s plan to move still-hot nuclear waste out of water pools and into dry cask storage in half the usual time of about 5 years. They claim their casts are proprietary and have not disclosed details about their design to the public. Until the rods are out of the spent-fuel pools and put into dry cask storage, the plant is extremely vulnerable. If there is a power outage, storm surge, or flood, the rods could melt down and create serious public health and environmental damage.


“Holtec refuses to show a site plan, so we don’t know what they’re doing to prevent spills or accidents. We also don’t know enough about Holtec’s dry cask storage design. The company says their cask storage design is proprietary which is an excuse not to let the public know how they are going to do this. This raises even bigger concerns. Nuclear rods are going to be stored on the site for who knows how long, and it is critical that they will be safe from a storm like Sandy or sea-level rise and climate impacts,” said Tittel. “If they aren’t storing the nuclear rods correctly, it could lead to environmental or public safety problems down the road. New Jersey needs to step in to make sure that they are following safety protocols and to ensure transparency.”


Oyster Creek has been a safety threat to Ocean County, polluting Barnegat Bay, and killing thousands of fish over the years. More than 4500 fish were killed at Oyster Creek in one year, showing its negative impact to the Barnegat Bay and why this plant should have been required to have cooling towers. 


“These new investigations raise serious concerns about Holtec’s ability to take care of such an important and potentially dangerous plant. New Jersey needs to really scrutinize this decommissioning. They need to take over the site to ensure safety, transparency, and public input. Holtec is still promising that they can finish the decommissioning in record time even though they’ve never completed a project like this before,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “New Jersey needs to come in and makes sure that there is transparency and that Holtec is not cutting corners and risking the safety of the environment and the people of Ocean County.”