The 636MW Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station (OCNGS) in New Jersey, US, is being decommissioned after being operated for 49 years.

The Oyster Creek nuclear power station was permanently shut down in September 2018. Holtec International acquired the plant site for decommissioning from Exelon Generation, the previous owner and operator, in July 2019.

Oyster Creek Environmental Protection (OCEP), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Holtec International, owns the power station, while Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI), another wholly-owned subsidiary of Holtec, will serve as the operator.

The total cost of the decommissioning project is estimated to be £730m ($885m), according to the Post‐Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR) submitted by HDI to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The Oyster Creek project site is expected to be restored and ready for NRC’s confirmatory review and approval by 2029, while the independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) is expected to be removed from the site by 2035.

Oyster Creek nuclear power plant decommissioning details

The previous owner Exelon proposed to use the time-taking safe storage (SAFSTOR) method in order to decommission the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant (NPP).

HDI, however, has received approval to use the decontamination (DECOM) method for faster decommissioning of the plant.

The radio-active equipment, along with the contaminated structures and components of the plant, will be promptly dismantled or decontaminated to permissible levels of radioactivity, before being removed from the site.

The NPP’s fuel has already been removed from the reactor vessels and placed in the spent fuel pool for cooling. The fuel will be cooled and transported in stainless steel canisters to the independent spent fuel storage facility (ISFSI) located onsite.

The used nuclear fuel from the onsite ISFSI is further planned to be shipped to a consolidated interim storage (CIS) facility called HI-STORE, which Holtec is planning to develop in New Mexico on a land owned by the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA).

The Oyster Creek NPP site is expected to be free of radioactivity by 2035.

Oyster Creek decommissioning project background

The operating license for the Oyster Creek NPP was issued by the NRC in April 1969, while the plant was commissioned in December 1969. It operating license was renewed for another 20-years after its expiry in April 2009.

The plant automatically got shut-down due to a fault in the turbine’s control system in November 2016.

In February 2018, Exelon announced to retire the nuclear power facility by December 2019, following an agreement with the State of New Jersey.

Exelon announced Holtec’s takeover of the Oyster Creek facility as the owner and decommissioning operator in July 2018 and prepared the license transfer agreement (LTA) for the handover in the next month.

The company declared permanent shut down of the facility in October 2018, while the NRC approved the transfer of Oyster Creek operating license and ownership to Holtec in June 2019.

HDI completed the acquisition of OCNGS from Exelon Generation in July 2019.

Contractors involved in Oyster Creek decommissioning

Comprehensive Decommissioning International (CDI), a joint venture between Holtec and SNC-Lavalin, is the general contractor for the Oyster Creek decommissioning project.

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GHNE) was sub-contracted by CDI for the decommissioning of the Oyster Creek reactor internals as well as the reactor pressure vessel in July 2019.

Oyster Creek NPP location and plant make-up

The Oyster Creek NPP was constructed between 1964 and 1969, on the banks of the Forked River, at Lacey Township, Ocean County, New Jersey, 96.5km east of Philadelphia.

Developed on an 800-acre site, the NPP was equipped with a single boiling water reactor (BWR) unit with a Mark I containment, a steam turbine, and a generator capable of producing 636MW of electrical energy.

The Oyster Creek was capable of powering approximately 60,000 US households. It supplied 196.2TWh of electricity during its operational life.