Mark Your Calendars for April 7, 2080

“Nuclear Power is neither safe nor cheap.”

Are you busy on April 7, 2080? That’s the date at which the closure and cleanup of Ocean County’s Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant will be complete.

The plant, one of the oldest in the nation, is scheduled to shut down before the end of this year, but there’s a long road before the lingering effects of this toxic site will be remediated.

Earlier today, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRC) conducted a webinar where their officials outlined the plan for shutdown and cleanup.

One reason this activity is so prolonged is that the plan (known as SAFSTOR) will be to maintain the site as-is for several decades as the residual radiation diminishes. Then, the area will be decontaminated and one day be remediated. Meanwhile, the highly radioactive spent fuel will be stored in stainless steel tanks inside concrete bunkers on site. The fuel will be under constant armed guard protection during that time.

The plant operator, Exelon, has estimated that the total cost of the shutdown will amount to $1.4 billion over the decades-long time span. To date, they have only allocated 67% of their estimate – and it’s highly likely that their total cost estimate may be exceeded. I asked if the taxpayer might be burdened with a significant part of the cost should Exelon declare bankruptcy or otherwise cease to exist, but I did not receive a satisfactory answer.

Of course, there are many other risks that Ocean County residents will have to live with over the next sixty years. Stainless steel corrodes, and the possibility of releasing highly radioactive matter into Barnegat Bay and the surrounding area is not unimportant.

The nuclear detritus is quite hot, and its supposed to be water cooled. Yet, we have seen where these systems have failed in the past, and there’s not 100% guarantee that this cooling will be robust enough to survive through the increasingly more severe hurricanes that plague the shore area.

Unless the spent fuel is to be stored in Lacey Township in perpetuity, it will have to somehow be moved to a nuclear dump in South Carolina or elsewhere, either by barge or truck. Neither option is free from risk to the environment.

Trump’s mandate to accelerate coal and nuclear at the expense of renewable energy is dangerous, bad for the environment, and just plain stupid.

Over the course of this highly risky endeavor, the NRC will be conducting public meetings, and hopefully concerns will be addressed. The next meeting will be on July 17 at 6 PM at the Lacey Township Community Hall in Forked River.

You can read more details on Exelon’s plans here, and review the webinar slides, below.

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