Oyster Creek Generating Station is no footnote in the state’s Energy Master Plan as the final draft discusses the importance of replacing the nuclear plant’s capacity upon its closure in 2019.
With the inclusion of Lacey Township in the master plan, the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) is encouraging the state to replace Oyster Creek’s generation, board spokesperson Greg Reinert told Patch in August.
“There are a number of good reasons to locate a new plant on the Lacey Township property, including the presence of a highly skilled workforce, community support for such an initiative, and the existing electrical transmission infrastructure,” the plan states.
Reinert emphasized that the plan encourages the state to replace the station’s generation, not the plant.
“The EMP only talks about energy and where it comes from and does not propose a new plant,” Reinert said, although he noted that the BPU encourages Oyster's replacement.
“There’s no way to say where it’s going to be built,” he said. “Generation is deregulated. We can’t order generation to be built necessarily. Someone would have to be interested in building generation there… We’re working with those interests.“
The retirement of the plant will present the state with a challenge and its location prevents “significant transmission bottlenecks and overloads,” the plan says.
When a power plant closes, there is usually an increase in wholesale energy and capacity prices, the plan states. Also, at least $100 million in transmission upgrades will be required in order to transfer energy to the region, Reinert said.
The state is currently in the planning process to explore how to replace Oyster Creek.
Lacey Committeeman David Most continues to work with Congressman Jon Runyan, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the BPU on the possibility of building a new generation facility in the township.
"I am pleased that Gov. Christie recognized Lacey as an ideal community for a new plant,” Runyan said in an e-mail. “I have and will continue to work with the Board of Public Utilities, the Department of Environmental Protection, and Lacey officials to help bring Lacey Township a new power plant. Safe nuclear energy should remain a part of our nation's energy policy."
Most has meetings lined up with an Energy Coalition and the state, he said.
“It is happening as we speak with the DEP and BPU,” Most said. “We want to ensure that we have a setting at the table as far as an opportunity to build future generation here. We’re fighting the fight.”
It would be disingenuous to have the taxpayers subsidize a new infrastructure when Lacey already has it in place, he said.
“It’s very important that we look at it because there’s a lot of revenue at stake,” Most said. “It only makes business sense to create revenue and jobs and to keep generation in state.”
The energy tax receipt that Lacey receives for hosting Oyster Creek was cut by $1 million in the past few years, he said. The township currently receives more than $11 million in energy tax receipts, which makes up 40 percent of the budget’s revenue.
The township is also in the process of incorporating the land behind Oyster Creek into the Master Plan.
The current Master Plan does not encompass that property, Most previously said. The township is seeking to on that property once but currently, it is not zoned for that purpose.
Once the property is zoned properly, the township can begin the permit process with the Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies, Most said.
Determining the Future of Nuclear Energy
The state’s Energy Master Plan also calls for an in-depth look at nuclear power as it relates to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.
“The events in Japan represent a siren for redoubled vigilance and federal regulatory oversight regarding the safety of all nuclear reactors in the U.S.,” the plan states.
New Jersey needs to continue its assessment of how nuclear power fits into its resource mix, the BPU says in the plan.
“The plan does not endorse building new nuclear at all,” Reinert said. “The plan talks about nuclear being a part of the mix. There are so many issues to building a new nuclear plant that that would be years away if that was even the route the state would go.”
According to the plan, if the state does not pursue additional in-state nuclear generation, the current greenhouse gas reduction goals will be unattainable.
“Vexing economic, safety, and environmental questions have to be answered before the State can embark on or abandon the path of developing the next generation of nuclear power plants,” the plan says.
The disaster at Fukushima has plagued Oyster Creek, as the plants are similar in design.
Jeff Tittel, President of the New Jersey Sierra Club, sees Fukushima as a "wakeup call."
“I think Fukushima is a wakeup call in coastal areas that nuclear power plants are not safe because we can’t necessarily control what happens with nature,” he said.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) continues to move ahead with the to be carried out “without delay,” spokesperson Neil Sheehan said. The NRC has several meetings lined up to discuss the implementation of recommendations.
“In short, the NRC is focusing many resources on addressing those areas found by the agency's Japan Task Force to be most pressing. A significant amount of work lies ahead in terms of the near-term recommendations,” he said.
The NRC will also study the long-term implications of the reactor events a Fukushima, Sheehan said.
“While all this work is taking place, the NRC has found the U.S. nuclear power plants safe for continued operation,” he said.
As for new nuclear plants, the NRC is reviewing an application submitted by PSEG for the Salem/Hope Creek site in New Jersey, he said. If approved, the company could bank the site and submit a separate application to build a new reactor or two.
But Tittel thinks the state is “heading in the wrong direction,” he said.
“Nuclear power is extremely expensive and not cost-effective,” he said. “There are big issues with safety and waste.”
The Energy Master Plan encourages the state to continue its coordination with the U.S. Department of Energy to accelerate a federal solution to the problem of storing radioactive waste.
“There is no federal solution. Those are just words that have no meaning,” he said. “Yucca Mountain [the former site for a federal nuclear repository] isn’t going to happen. Nuclear waste will be stored on site for generations.”
The Energy Master Plan “shifts the focus away from energy efficiency and renewable energy,” he said. The plan emphasizes the need for fossil fuel and nuclear energy.
“New Jersey could easily meet their energy needs through energy efficiency and renewable energy. Energy efficiency is the most cost effective way to save on energy demands and the need to build new plants,” he said.
If a new generation facility is built in Lacey Township, it will inevitably impact the Barnegat Bay, he said.
The BPU recommended a state agency panel be established to assess the role of nuclear energy in the New Jersey’s future.