[decomm_wkg] Oyster Creek - "... License Termination Plan Delays Submission”

Deficiencies in Former Nuclear Plant License Termination Plan Delays Submission

May 22, 2024
By Gina G. Scala

TICK, TOCK: Decommissioning of the Oyster Creek Generation Station site is expected to finish in 2025. (Photo by Ryan Morrill)

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s preapplication readiness assessment of the Oyster Creek Generation Station’s license termination plan turned up areas that require additional information, although overall it aligned with federal regulations.  

“Based on this, Holtec (Holtec Decommissioning International) has decided to postpone submitting the Oyster Creek License Termination Plan,” said Neil Sheehan, public information officer for NRC’s Region 1.  

It’s unclear what the new timeline for submitting the license termination plan will be. Decommissioning of the Oyster Creek plant is expected to be completed by 2025. Holtec officials will ask for a partial site release, with the only exception being the onsite dry cask storage pad. In 2021, the last multipurpose canister of Oyster Creek irradiated fuel was placed in dry storage, leaving its reactor building bare of all fissile material. HDI moved used fuel from its place in the spent nuclear pool to an onsite dry storage facility after the nuclear waste had cooled for 2½ years. 

NRC staff completed its review last month. HDI, the decommissioning operator for Oyster Creek, requested the assessment, which was limited to “the content associated with the design and planning for the final status survey” of the former nuclear power plant site in Lacey Township as well as addressing how to approach compliance with the radiological criteria for termination, according to the NRC.  

“HDI should consider the entirety of the NRC staff observations provided during the preapplication,” Marlayna Doell, project manager, reactor division branch, division of decommissioning, uranium and waste programs, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguard, said in a letter to HDI leadership. “If necessary, reevaluate the application submission date based on your elevation of the time needed to address the readiness assessment observations. The NRC staff remains committed to working with HDI in ongoing and future engagement activities.” 

Doell’s missive also noted that due to the nature of the readiness assessment, additional items not previously identified could come up during the formal review of Oyster Creek’s license termination plan. 

Among the NRC’s observations are the approach and criteria to assess dose from subsurface residual radioactivity, groundwater elimination and the development of derived concentration guideline levels, including compliance and alternative exposure scenarios.  

Oyster Creek was once the nation’s oldest operating nuclear power plant. In February 2018, the former owner, Exelon Generation, announced plans to permanently shut down Oyster Creek more than 14 months before a December 2019 deadline agreed to with the state. Doing so negated the state’s calls for retrofitting the plant with cooling towers at the Route 9 site. It ceased permanent operations in September 2018.  —G.G.S.