Holtec is talking of completing its prototype by 2030. Eight years. I have not seen any design make it through the NRC approval process in that length of time, let alone get built and be operational.

My understanding is that the NRC still requires an external body of water. If so, this is something Holtec and others never talk about.

Spliting up the work by different companies was what was done at Votgle, in Georgia. The reactor is years behind schedule and millions over budget. They could never make the specifications work.

The mayor of Oyster Creek seems to welcome this development because of the jobs it will create which are not that many after construction. Lucky for us the closing agreement for Indian Point specifically prohibits any reactor being built on that site, although count on the pro nuke contingent loudly demanding it.

Thanks to jlbnj1@gmail.com and Manna Jo Greene for forwarding this article.

Marilyn Elie

Hyundai joins Holtec in plan that could put small reactor at Oyster Creek

Amanda Oglesby

Asbury Park Press 11/26/21

LACEY — A subsidiary of South Korean automaker Hyundai and the nuclear company Holtec International have partnered to build a nuclear plant prototype that could be placed in Lacey in the future.

Holtec International, the Camden-based company that is decommissioning the former Oyster Creek nuclear plant, announced the new partnership this week. The companies are working to build Holtec’s SMR-160 plant, a “small modular reactor” meant to reduce costs for nuclear power and re-energize nuclear’s place in electricity markets. 

Holtec expects its SMR-160 prototype to be complete by 2030. The company has also expressed interest in its Lacey property as the site for the prospective reactor. Other communities are also under consideration.

Across the nation, aging and expensive nuclear plants are being closed or bolstered with government subsidies to remain economically viable against competition from cheaper natural gas plants. Nuclear companies hope new designs in small modular reactors will provide an energy-generating alternative that is less expensive than traditional nuclear and carbon-free, a factor they hope will be an advantage over cheap, carbon-emitting natural gas plants.

The nuclear companies are also touting the emerging small modular reactor technology as more reliable than solar and wind power and safer than older, more complex nuclear reactor designs.

Lacey Mayor Peter Curatolo is pleased that Holtec is eyeing its Oyster Creek property for the prototype’s location. Watch the 2017 video for Curatolo speaking about plans for the township after the closing of the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant. 

“Anytime that there’s an expansion and the possibility of increasing employment in our town… I would support that,” he said. “I’m very comfortable with the level of security there and the level of federal oversight (of decommissioning) that continues… there at the plant location.”

Township concerns

Lacey officials have worried that as the defunct nuclear plant is decommissioned, the township’s commercial tax base will shrink, forcing officials to raise taxes on surrounding homeowners to meet the needs of police service, road paving, school taxes and other necessities. A new power plant — albeit a smaller, less expensive one — could fill some of the financial hole when the older plant, and its annual tax bill, is gone. 

The U.S. Department of Energy expects SMRs (small modular reactors) like Holtec’s design will be part of America’s energy future, playing “a key part of the Department’s goal to develop safe, clean, and affordable nuclear options.”  Department officials see benefits in SMRs in that they take up less space than older plants, require less money to build, and can help promote U.S. energy independence. 

Related:NRC says Oyster Creek had safety violations, armorer who falsified records

As a result, the Energy Department awarded millions of dollars in grants to nuclear companies to support research and development in new technologies. Among the award recipients was Holtec, which received $6.3 million for its research in new reactor designs. The department also awarded Holtec subsidiary SMR LLC, based in Holtec’s Camden plant, $1.6 million toward its small modular reaction testing and safety system performance research.

Under the new partnership with Hyundai Engineering & Construction, the South Korean company will complete portions of the plant design and prepare construction specifications for Holtec’s SMR-160 plants. Hyundai Engineering & Construction will also receive the rights to construct the plant. Holtec will serve as the overall architect for the plant and provide the main nuclear components, made at its U.S.-based manufacturing sites, while instruments and the plant’s control systems will be created through Holtec’s partnership with Mitsubishi Electric Corp.

Once complete, the reactor should produce as much as 160 megawatts of electricity. For comparison, the decommissioned nuclear plant at Oyster Creek had a 625-megawatt capacity, or enough electricity to power more than 600,000 homes, according to a 2017 fact sheet by its former owner Exelon Generation.

Miles away in the Atlantic Ocean, wind farm companies are preparing to build thousands of wind turbines, which New Jersey officials hope will provide another 7,500 megawatts of electricity by 2035

Some residents critical

Some Lacey residents, such as frequent Holtec critic Paul Dressler, worry the Oyster Creek site is not a good location for a future nuclear plant, even a small one. Dressler said he is in favor of the new small modular reactors, but not for Lacey.

Dressler said rising sea levels threaten any future construction at the Oyster Creek site and any nuclear accident would risk contaminating the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer below, he said. The aquifer, which runs under the Pine Barrens, supplies the drinking water to most of the southern half of New Jersey.

Janet Tauro, New Jersey chairwoman for the environmental advocacy group Clean Water Action, shares similar concerns. The combination of high population density along the Jersey Shore and environmentally sensitive areas around Oyster Creek, such as the Pine Barrens and coastal ecosystem, make Lacey a bad choice to try a new nuclear technology, she said.

“Ocean County shouldn’t be a test case, with over 600,000 full-time residents, that swells to more than 2 million in the summer,” Tauro said. “You have a fragile environment. You have Barnegat Bay. You have the Atlantic Ocean… and it’s densely populated.”

At the existing plant, all the nuclear spent fuel from a half-century of power generation has been moved into steel and concrete casks for long-term storage. Demolition of the buildings at the site is ongoing and the reactor vessel components will be cut up for disposal early next year, said Holtec spokesman Joe Delmar.

Holtec expects to have decommissioning of the former nuclear facility completed by 2025.

More:Holtec employee splashed with radioactive water in Oyster Creek cask accident

Amanda Oglesby is an Ocean County native who covers Brick, Barnegat and Lacey townships as well as the environment. She has worked for the Press for more than a decade. Reach her at @OglesbyAPP, aoglesby@gannettnj.com or 732-557-5701.