Clean Water Action has requested a review by the NJ Attorney General on the proposed deal to transfer the Oyster Creek license and $982 million decommissioning fund to a Camden-based company that has partnered with a Canadian energy giant reportedly facing corruption charges in that country.
The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing the deal between Oyster Creek owner, Exelon, and Holtec International Inc., a dry cask storage manufacturing company. A decision is expected by May, 2019.
The company that takes control of the Oyster Creek decommissioning will not only have access to the fund, but also nuclear materials and over a million pounds of highly radioactive nuclear waste.
“This is a state and national security issue,” said Janet Tauro, Clean Water Action, NJ Board Chair. “Every precaution must be taken to ensure that those nuclear materials do not fall into the wrong hands.”
While the state Attorney General does not have the final say over the deal, a review could raise any red flags if public safety is at risk.
Holtec has put together a complex corporate structure of limited liability and teamed up with the Canadian company, SNC Lavalin, which federal authorities in Canada have reportedly charged with fraud and corruption charges.
Exelon had projected a $1.4 billion decommissioning price tag. The trust fund, established through surcharges on ratepayers’ electric bills, is 40-percent short of the projection. Questions remain as to whether Holtec has the funds to safely complete the decommissioning. If the decommissioning fund is inadequate, taxpayers could be left with the bill.
Holtec plans on using a “proto-prompt” technology approved by the NRC several years ago that allows for a quicker time frame for emptying highly radioactive fuel pools. There is no long-term, real-life data to indicate whether the cask system can safely store the highly radioactive rods for long periods of time. Some of the nuclear waste generated by atomic plants remains radioactive for tens of thousands of years.
The company has proposed transporting the casks containing the highly radioactive waste across the country to an interim-storage facility in New Mexico that would also be owned and operated by Holtec. That facility is pending NRC approval.
“This could be the best deal ever, or not,” added Tauro. “Its complexity demands intense scrutiny to ensure public safety and not corporate gain.”