Oyster Creek Decommissioning

Oyster Creek Decommissioning

The Oyster Creek Generating Station permanently ceased operation Sept. 17, 2018, leaving a 49-year legacy of safe, reliable, carbon-free electricity generation and service to the community.  The site has now entered a new era—the safe decommissioning and dismantlement of its components, systems and buildings.

In July of 2019, Oyster Creek was purchased by Holtec International in a deal that allowed the site to enter immediate decommissioning. The move enabled the decommissioning and site release decades sooner than previously anticipated. The shorter decommissioning period benefits the community by allowing the site to be repurposed.

Our Goals for Decommissioning Oyster Creek

Achieving excellence in the health and safety of personnel
Protecting the environment now and for future generations
Ensuring a safe, respectful and equal opportunity workplace
Demanding the highest level of individual and corporate integrity
Continually improving upon our robust quality assurance program

Employing financially sustainable business practices
Maintaining transparent and ongoing communication with stakeholders
Fulfilling our promise to be a trusted steward of legacy nuclear materials

Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants

Decommissioning is the process by which nuclear power plants are safely retired from service. The progression involves decontaminating the facility to reduce residual radioactivity, dismantling the structures, removing contaminated materials to appropriate disposal facilities and releasing the property for other uses. The owner remains accountable to the NRC until decommissioning has been completed and the agency has terminated its license.

Here’s a brief look at what will occur at Oyster Creek:

Oyster Creek
  1. The reactor was powered down on Sept. 17, 2018. This removed 650 megawatts of electricity from the regional grid.
  2. Oyster Creek’s fuel has been removed from the reactor vessel and placed in the spent fuel pool to cool.
  3. Once cooled, the fuel will be placed in stainless steel canisters and transported to the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Facility (ISFSI) on station property. 
  4. Radioactive equipment and components are dismantled per an approved decommissioning plan.
  5. Contaminated components are dismantled, securely packaged and transported to a licensed off-site facility.
  6. The site is inspected by state and federal agencies to ensure the property has been returned to conditions outlined in the decommissioning plans. Both the State and Federal agencies will continue to monitor the site.

Our Decommissioning Team:

After Oyster Creek ceased operations many of the operations employees transferred into a decommissioning organization. Throughout the decommissioning lifecycle many of the same employees will assist in the safe dismantlement of Oyster Creek. Here’s a look at what we will be doing.

Protecting the facility and the public:

A security force will safeguard the facility until all nuclear fuel has been removed from the site.

Engineers, technicians & craftworkers:

A highly qualified, skilled staff of experts will oversee and conduct the entire dismantlement process.

Environmental Scientists:

Using company employees and contracted experts, we will continue a strong environmental monitoring program through decommissioning.

Emergency Responders:

Teams of qualified employees, both on and off-site, will be on-call all day, every day to work to protect the plant and the public in an unlikely emergency situation.

Overview of Decommissioning Process

  • To decommission a nuclear power plant, the licensee must submit A Post‐Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR) to the NRC. This report provides a description of the planned decommissioning activities, a schedule for accomplishing them, and an estimate of the expected costs.
  • The licensee has to reduce the residual radioactivity to levels that permit release of the property and termination of the facility’s operating license. The site must be decommissioned within 60 years of the plant ceasing operations.
  • The decommissioning process involves removing the used nuclear fuel from the reactor; dismantling systems or components containing radioactive products (e.g. the reactor vessel); and cleaning up or dismantling contaminated materials from the facility.
  • Contaminated materials can be disposed of in two ways: decontaminated on site or removed and shipped to a waste processing, storage or disposal facility.

Decommissioning Options

(Companies can choose one or both options)

  • SAFSTOR (Safe Storage) ‐ Plant is kept intact, all fuel is placed in spent fuel pool or dry storage casks and time is used as a decontaminating agent. Plant is then dismantled similar to DECON once radioactivity has decayed to lower levels.
  • DECON (Decontamination) ‐ Contaminated equipment and materials are removed (used nuclear fuel rods and equipment account for over 99 percent of the plant’s radioactivity). Plant is then dismantled ‐ this phase can take five years or longer.

Terminating the NRC License, Releasing the Site

As the DECON phase nears completion, the company must submit a license termination plan to the NRC. This needs to occur within two years of the proposed license termination date. After the NRC receives the license termination plan, affected states, local communities and tribes may submit comments on the plan at a public meeting near the facility. The public also has the opportunity to request an adjudicatory hearing. Members of the public may observe any meeting the NRC holds with the company, unless the discussion involves proprietary, sensitive, safeguarded or classified information.

Once public concerns are addressed, the NRC will terminate the license if all work has followed the approved license termination plan and the final radiation survey shows that the site is suitable for release. Most plans envision releasing the site to the public for unrestricted use, meaning any residual radiation would be below NRC’s limits of 25 millirem per year. This completes the decommissioning process. 


When will decommissioning be final?

The goal set by both Holtec and CDI is partially decommissioning the plant within eight years, barring an unforeseen major market or natural event and pending regulatory approvals. Full decommissioning cannot be completed until the used fuel is dispositioned.

Why do you think you can finish the project in such a short time when so many decommissioning projects have taken a whole lot longer? 

Timely decommissioning is made possible because of today’s innovative technologies geared toward a safer and more predictable decommissioning program. For more information about innovation visit https://cdi-decom.com/decommissioning/technology-differentiators/

Holtec has also invested in a decommissioning oversight and management approach for its fleet of sites. Holtec’s Fleet Management Model (HFMM) is an operational governance tool that brings proven processes, procedures and management principles together with software applications developed in-house by Holtec.  The result of this effort is a streamlined process that allows Holtec to integrate sites purchased from different utility owners, without disruption to the workforce or a compromise in quality and safety on site. For more information about Holtec’s Fleet Management Model visit https://hdi-decom.com/innovation/

The NRC provides up to 60 years to decommission a facility and other operators have taken much longer than Holtec is proposing to decommission a plant. Why and how will Holtec do it sooner?  

As noted by the U.S. NRC in their documentation and decommissioning webinars, decommissioning takes place in accordance with federal regulations and U.S. NRC inspectors observing operations. There are no short cuts, nor can safety be compromised. We believe that we will change the thinking on the tradeoffs between waiting versus prompt decommissioning.  

Holtec is a New Jersey based company with a solid record of community support and financial performance. We want to complete decommissioning and restoration of Oyster Creek in the safest and shortest possible time. There are many economic benefits to decommissioning a nuclear plant more quickly than the 60-year timeframe.  

Holtec has been at the forefront of spent fuel management technologies for over 30 years and will ensure the station’s decommissioning is managed efficiently and with the highest degree of safety, quality and precision. CDI provides an innovative, comprehensive and unique approach to decommissioning nuclear power plants by accelerating movement of spent fuel into dry cask storage.  

With this new method, CDI systematically deconstructs nuclear plants with utmost environmental protection and supreme worker safety in the shortest possible time. 

Will Exelon continue to be involved during decommissioning? 

Exelon will no longer own, control, be responsible for, or have access at Oyster Creek. However, as a member of the nuclear industry, Holtec will continue a productive and collegial relationship with Exelon that includes sharing lessons learned and operating experience, as needed

Will this be the first time Holtec has decommissioned a plant? How do we know it will be done well?

Holtec is a well-recognized innovation-driven nuclear company with a track record of introducing state-of-the-art technologies to reduce radiation dose. Holtec, as the new owner of the plant, has selected Comprehensive Decommissioning International, LLC (CDI) to perform the decontamination and decommissioning of the plant. With its experience and state-of-the-art technologies, CDI is well equipped to decommission Oyster Creek within eight years, which is more than 50 years ahead of the industry-allowed 60-year timeline. 

CDI is a joint venture company of Holtec and SNC-Lavalin. CDI is headquartered in Camden, N.J. CDI brings the expertise of both companies together to ensure safe, rapid, and economic nuclear plant decommissioning.   

With 50,000 employees in 50 countries across the world, SNC-Lavalin is a global, fully integrated professional services and project management company. SNC-Lavalin provides comprehensive end-to-end project solutions – including consulting, design, engineering, construction, operations and maintenance and decommissioning to nuclear clients across the world. Following the acquisition of Atkins in July 2017, SNC-Lavalin further established itself through the incorporation of complementary nuclear capabilities as a Project Management Organization in the Decommissioning and Waste Management fields.  

Who will be responsible for security?

Safety and security remain the top priority at the site. Once the sale has closed, Holtec will assume all responsibility for the site, including dry cask storage (ISFSI) pad safety/security and overall decommissioning. As long as used fuel remains on site, a security force must be in place according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. Holtec has retained security employees who protected the site prior to the change in ownership. 

Who will be responsible for environmental impacts?

Once the sale has closed, Holtec will assume all responsibility for the site, including any environmental clean-up and overall decommissioning. 

What are the safety implications of leaving a large amount of spent fuel in canisters located near the coastline? Aren’t there flooding concerns for the site? 

As recently as 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused flooding in the Pine Barrens. Yet, flooding only reached 6 ft. above sea level. Oyster Creek’s spent fuel is very safely stored at 24 ft. above sea level. 

Additionally, when spent fuel storage facilities are engineered and constructed, they are built to withstand nature’s worst. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses the dry spent fuel storage systems separately and requires a thorough review of thermal and criticality performance, meteorology, surface hydrology, seismology and the ability of the system to withstand natural and manmade catastrophes before approving the license.  

When will the spent fuel be removed from site? 

The federal government has the obligation to take receipt of used fuel located at nuclear stations across the industry. At this time, there is no clear timeline for that action. Holtec International has submitted its license application to build a consolidated interim used fuel management facility in New Mexico. Oyster Creek’s used fuel could be relocated to this facility. The timeline for used fuel transport would be dependent on approvals and funding from the federal government.  

How will Holtec keep the local community informed? Will you have a Stakeholder Information Forum?

Keeping neighbors and stakeholders informed has always been a priority at Oyster Creek. That will not change under Holtec’s ownership. Holtec has already engaged a cross section of local, county and state governmental, community and business leaders, to provide ongoing information regarding its plans for decommissioning. 

Contact Us

Holtec Decommissioning International

HDI is Licensed Operator for Oyster Creek

Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Holtec International headquartered at the Krishna P. Singh Technology Campus, Camden, NJ. HDI functions as the licensed operator for Holtec owned nuclear power plants. HDI provides the licensee oversight of Comprehensive Decommissioning International (CDI), Holtec and SNC-Lavalin’s jointly owned decommissioning general contractor.