Holtec Seeks to Purchase 4th Nuclear Plant for Decommissioning


HYANNIS – The company that is seeking to purchase the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth for decommissioning has also reached an agreement to acquire Entergy’s Indian Point Energy Center in New York.

Holtec is now in the process of purchasing four nuclear power facilities to complete an immediate dismantlement and remove spent fuel.

Indian Point includes three units located in Buchanan, New York and the sale would be effective after Unit 3 is shut down and permanently defueled which is scheduled for April 2021.

The sale of plant and the transfer of licenses require Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval.

Holtec is also seeking to decommission Pilgrim, Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Ocean County, New Jersey; and Palisades Power Plant in Van Buren County, Michigan.

Pilgrim, Palisades and Indian Point are all plants currently owned by Entergy.

NRC Spokesman Neil Sheehan said this is new territory for the regulatory agency.

“We obviously have the question about how is this company going to be doing this simultaneously,” Sheehan said. “Can they handle four plants all at once and be able to perform that work effectively?”

Similar to the process involved with the sale of the Pilgrim plant, Holtec will submit a license transfer application from Entergy.

“We will want to look at whether the company has the technical and the financial capabilities to carry out the decommissioning,” Sheehan said.

Sheehan said the NRC has already asked that question with respect to Pilgrim and Oyster Creek.

“The money that exists in the Decommissioning Trust fund has grown, but it is what they have to work with,” Sheehan said. “We have to look at that very carefully and make sure that the number add up and that they can safely carry out the dismantlement work.”

Sheehan said companies purchasing nuclear plants for the decommissioning process is a new model gaining popularity in recent years.

In a statement, Holtec said they are committed to the safe decommissioning of shutdown nuclear power plants. 

“Our goal is the safe and quality decommissioning of nuclear sites in a prompt fashion that enables the site’s reuse more quickly than if Entergy continued to own the plant after shutdown. As the owner of the Indian Point Energy Center, Holtec would utilize the experience and state-of-the-art technologies offered by CDI (Comprehensive Decommissioning International, a joint venture company of Holtec International and SNC-Lavalin). CDI is well equipped to safely decommission IPEC sooner than if Entergy would if they continue to own the plant,” the statement read.

The company also said they were is confident in their ability to manage simultaneous decommissioning projects. 

“Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI) will be using a fleet model to manage and conduct the decommissioning of its shutdown nuclear power plants that will ensure sufficient resources are available to conduct licensed activities at multiple sites. The fleet model provides efficiency by establishing standard processes, procedures, and approaches at both the corporate level and at the decommissioning sites. Additionally, timing of the decommissioning is such that not all six reactors will be in active decommissioning concurrently.”

Local anti-nuclear activist Diane Turco, with the Cape Downwinders, said the organization already had concerns about the license transfer for Pilgrim to Holtec and the Indian Point purchase raises additional concerns.

“This is a new business adventure to decommission nuclear reactors by Holtec and how many reactors have they decommissioned? And the answer is zero,” Turco said.

Turco said the plant decommissioning trust funds have billions of dollars.

“Even at Pilgrim there is over $1 billion of ratepayer money to clean up that site when it is shutdown,” Turco said.

The NRC can approve exemptions for how the funds are used other than for decommissioning operations.

“Holtec sees a gold mine in all these decommissioning trust funds,” Turco said.

The NRC is expected to make a decision on the license transfer applications for Pilgrim and the Oyster Creek plant in the next several months.

Holtec and Entergy jointly filed a request with the NRC in November for the approval of a sale of the Pilgrim plant.

Holtec plans to complete decommissioning and site restoration decades sooner than if Entergy completed decommissioning.

They jointly filed a license transfer application of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, as well as its Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund, to Holtec.

If approved, it would become effective after the plant permanently shuts down on May 31, 2019.

Holtec’s filings describe the plan of its subsidiary, Holtec Decommissioning International, to complete the dismantling, decontamination, and remediation of Pilgrim to NRC standards within eight years of license transfer, or by the end of 2027, assuming timely regulatory approvals.

Holtec estimates total costs for decommissioning Pilgrim at $1.13 billion.  The balance in Pilgrim’s Decommissioning Trust Fund as of October 31, 2018, was $1.05 billion.

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