Sierra Club: NRC Rubberstamps Oyster Creek License Transfer to Holtec- Raises Red Flag

NRC Rubberstamps Oyster Creek License Transfer to Holtec- Raises Red Flag     

 

Today the Nuclear Regulatory Commission(NRC) has approved the transfer of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station (Oyster Creek) license from Exelon Generation Co. (Exelon) to Oyster Creek Environmental Protection (OCEP), as owner, and Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI), as decommissioning operator. (See email from NRC attached)

“In a decision that raises serious concerns, the NRC rushed through Oyster Creek’s license transfer to Holtec. They have done it without any real public input or a public hearing. The NRC should be called the Nuclear Rubberstamping Commission. There are serious problems with Holtec taking over the site from a liability and transparency standpoint and if they can do the job properly without cutting corners. What NRC did today is reckless. There are many critical questions that have never been answered but the NRC decided to rush this through to make this decision behind closed doors,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The NRD took the side of a nuclear power plant over the people and the environment.”

The approval will allow Holtec Decommissioning international to start the process of retiring the Oyster Creek plant by July 1st. An investigation, published by WNYC and ProPublica, found that out of $1.6 billion in tax credits designated for companies investing in Camden, Holtec International is one of them.

“Holtec has run into problems in Canada and is under investigation for the funding of their facility in Camden. To just give them a license to do what they want on this site is disturbing. The quicker and cheaper they get it done, they more money they will 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. This is about saving money for Holtec on their insurance which is a serious concern because of the cost it will be to decommission the site,” said Tittel.

 

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 detail 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.

“We don’t know enough about Holtec’s new dry cask storage design. It is an experiment that has not been vetted. We should not be turning Ocean County into a nuclear laboratory, especially when there is not enough insurance to cover damages. Holtec says it will take 2.5 years to transfer the spent fuel in their dry cask storage which has never been done before.  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. Holtec needs to prove to us that doing it in half the time will be safe,” said Tittel. “With climate change here and storms increasing, will Holtec’s storage facility going to be safe from a storm surge?”

The NRC order approving the license transfer is effective immediately, but the license transfer will not be finalized until the successful completion of the transaction between Exelon, OCEP and HDI. At that point, the NRC will issue a license amendment reflecting completion of the transfer.

“This transfer raises serious red flags for New Jersey. With NRC reducing insurance costs and Holtec adding more third parties in the purchase, we have many serious questions and concerns before the BPU allows for the sale. The state of New Jersey should be investigating this. Adding more third parties in the purchase and new technology that they will not disclose to the public brings concerns about accountability, transparency, and funding that need to be answered,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. 

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