LACEY, NJ – Holtec’s decommissioning work of the former Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant has slowed down since the beginning of this month in compliance with a court-ordered mandate. Ocean County Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson, Jr.’s imposition of temporary restraints on Holtec, puts a temporary hold on work - other than that permitted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Attorneys for the Township of Lacey filed the court application requesting judicial intervention, citing what it calls Holtec’s refusal to obtain necessary permits or approvals from the municipality.
The Verified Complaint filed by Jerry J. Dasti, of Dasti, Murphy. McGucklin, Ulaky, Koutsouris & Murphy incorporated a letter the firm sent to Holtec’s legal counsel. An excerpt accuses Holtec of already initiating the process of “building structures into the ground, by excavating a substantial area, which presumably will thereafter house the spent fuel rods.”
Prior to Holtec taking over, Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L) first owned the site, followed by Exelon Generating Company. JCP&L attained approval for an independent spent fuel installation from the local governing municipality.
The Lacey Township Planning Board granted Exelon authorization for the construction of 28 “additional prefabricated horizontal storage modules to house spent fuel rods". That was back in 2010 – and the last time Lacey officials even considered the issue.
Dasti’s emergent application to the court says that Holtec submitted a site approval plan back in the fall of 2019 but withdrew it sometime in 2020. As recently as April of this year, Holtec representative Jeffrey Dostal wrote to the Lacey mayor confirming the company still intended to seek the approvals.
Meanwhile, Dasti contends that Holtec appears to have started the task of making room to house 24 new casks with 6-8 nuclear rods in each casks. Despite Dostal’s representation, the work allegedly began without approvals from the local municipality.
“The harm that threatens to befall the plaintiff (Township of Lacey) is much more egregious than monetary damages could ever possibly compensate the plaintiff,” asserts Dasti in a letter memorandum to the court. ‘Defendants (Holtec) are, without appropriate oversight and approval, burying spent nuclear fuel rods in a large pit.”
Holtec, which is represented by Richard Hunt of Parker McCay disagrees with the need for approvals or permits from Lacey. They claim oversight of decommissioning activities comes from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a federal agency.
According to the brief filed on behalf of Holtec, it remains inconsequential that site approval was obtained for the existing storage pad. Dostal even certified that several additional spent fuel campaigns continued between 2010 and 2018.
“At no point did Lacey require Holtec or its predecessors to obtain local approvals for the transfer and loading o spent fuel into the dry cask storage modules for those prior campaigns, “writes Hunt in the brief. “The process is regulated by the NRC.”
Holtec admits the company applied to Lacey for Preliminary and Final Major Site Plan approval back in December of 2019. However, the arrangement of dry storage casks spent fuel storage was only part of the application. The company also sought to realign the driveway and construct a new security building. When Holtec decided against building the security building, they submitted a revised plan in March.
According to Hunt, Holtec withdrew its application before the Planning Board, which included a determination that there was no need to expand the concrete pad needed to store the spent nuclear rods. After the hearing where the temporary restraints were imposed, Hunt supplied Lacey with information from the NRC.
Holtec has reiterated that the company does not plan construction of any “structures” as part of ongoing decommissioning activities. Lacey officials were invited onsite to tour the area.
Citing the Atomic Energy Act and NRC, Hunt contended that Lacey officials have no role in the field of nuclear safety regulation, including those related to construction and operation.
“While the Township may have other objections to the decommissioning of Oyster Creek that it has not elaborated in this proceeding, the Township cannot regulate Defendants’ handling of spent fuel under the guise of site plan approval,” wrote Hunt.
Joseph Delmar, Senior Director of Government Affairs and Communications of Holtec shared his optimism that things were worked out between Lacey and Holtec.
“Holtec and Lacey Township met and resolved their differences,” shared Delmar on Friday afternoon. “Holtec will be coming to a future planning board meeting to provide an update and looks forward to working with Lacey Township.”
While Dasti initially expressed surprise at Delmar’s comments, he said today that the parties are now working on agreement. A consent order may be executed by the time the matter goes back to court on July 2.
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