Oyster Creek, nation’s oldest nuclear power plant, shuts down Monday

Oyster Creek was New Jersey's first nuclear generation station, opened in 1967. It shut down in September 2018. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Oyster Creek was New Jersey's first nuclear generation station, opened in 1967. It shut down in September 2018. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The nation’s oldest nuclear power point is shutting down permanently Monday.

The Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey’s Lacey Township went online in December 1969, the same day as the Nine Mile Point Nuclear Generating Station near Oswego, New York. But Oyster Creek’s original license was granted first.

The Ocean County plant generates enough electricity to power 600,000 homes, or roughly all the homes in Monmouth and Ocean counties combined.

The plant’s owner, Exelon Generation, agreed to shut down the plant in return for not being required to build costly cooling towers requested by the state Department of Environmental Protection that would minimize the impact on fish and other marine life in the creek.

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The Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station has dealt with corrosion and leaks during its time in service, but the owner says the plant has always been safe.

In July, Exelon Generation announced that Holtec International had agreed to purchase the property.

The company will contract with Camden, New Jersey-based Comprehensive Decommissioning International to decommission the plant within eight years, more than 50 years ahead of the industry-allowed 60-year timeline.

Holtec, formed in New Jersey and now has its headquarters in Jupiter, Florida, has submitted a license application for a facility in New Mexico to accept spent nuclear fuel from all plants in the United States, including Oyster Creek. The company says transporting all fuel to that facility would allow the company to return the site to unrestricted use.

Exelon Generation had previously announced that the decommission plan would cost $1.4 billion. The closure is on the state’s 10-point Barnegat Bay action plan.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, applauded the closure.

“We believe that the plant needs to be decommissioned as soon as possible with a just transition for workers included,” he said in part. “With Oyster Creek closing, the (Barnegat) Bay can start healing, we can move towards clean energy, and we can use the site for better purposes. This could be a win-win, but this should happen safely and as soon as possible.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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