LACEY — Almost a half century’s worth of nuclear waste is accumulating on concrete pads in southern Lacey, refuse from what used to be the town’s economic engine.
Towering steel-and-concrete canisters of highly radioactive fuel rods, which once powered the reactor inside the now-defunct Oyster Creek nuclear plant, are piling up at the plant, and more are scheduled to be filled.
The mounting collection of toxic material is worrying residents and town officials, who contend their community is at risk from storing nuclear waste but not being fairly compensated for the burden.
The company’s nuclear waste storage site “affects the whole county,” said Ocean County Freeholder Gary Quinn, a Lacey resident and former town mayor who sits on the municipal Planning Board.
On Monday, as plant officials sought approval to increase the storage capacity of nuclear waste on their site, the Planning Board threw a delay into the process.
Citing concerns over safety, lack of information, and no hard plans to remove the spent nuclear fuel in the near future, the Planning Board voted unanimously to declare the plant’s application incomplete.
Holtec and a collection of its subsidiary companies are looking to demolish the plant within eight years and profit from the plant’s nearly $1 billion decommissioning trust fund. But when the plant is gone, the nuclear waste is likely to remain on the site.
“It is going to be here in perpetuity?” Quinn said Tuesday. “God forbid there’s any kind of catastrophe.”
he new pad would hold 25 casks, according to Holtec’s application. Once the plant is fully decommissioned, 63 casks will be left at the site, D’Ambrosio said.
The casks are designed to contain the dangerous, radioactive by-products of nuclear energy. The company says its casks are designed to last 300 years, although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees nuclear power plants, only licenses casks for 40 years, with the expectation that companies will apply for renewals periodically. Some nuclear experts say the company’s 300-year claim cannot be proven.
Inside the cask
Casks hold dangerous radioactive elements like Cesium-137, Strontium-90 and Plutonium-239, fuel bi-products created inside reactors, which remain dangerous for generations.
“The Oyster Creek site was never designed to be a storage facility,” he said, adding that he believed the property was not a safe location to store large amounts of nuclear waste for the long term.
LeTellier said he has written numerous elected officials over the years, urging them to find another location to store the material, but he has received few responses.
Power companies have successfully sued the federal government for compensation to store the spent nuclear fuel, but there are no federal protections for local governments to also receive money for hosting the sites.
“We don’t have much faith in either the state or the federal government looking out for our economic well-being,” said Kennis. “We just want to make sure our voices are heard.”
Read more at Life after Oyster Creek: nuclear waste piles up in Lacey