Holtec International announced Tuesday that it will take ownership of the Indian Point Energy Center near New York City to decommission the plant’s three nuclear reactors, doubling the Camden company’s growing portfolio of reactors headed for the scrap heap.

The privately owned Holtec will acquire Indian Point reactors from Entergy Corp. after the last unit retires in 2021. Holtec plans to demolish, dismantle, and restore the Buchanan, N.Y., site much more quickly than the industry-standard 60-year plan proposed by many reactor operators.

“The sale of Indian Point to Holtec is expected to result in the completion of decommissioning decades sooner than if the site were to remain under Entergy’s ownership,” said Leo Denault, chief executive of Entergy, which is based in New Orleans. “With its deep experience and technological innovations, Holtec’s ability to decommission Indian Point will benefit stakeholders in the surrounding community.”

The decommissioning of nuclear power plants has become a big business as few new reactors are being built, and the industry is struggling economically to compete with low-cost natural gas generators. Exelon Generation announced this month that it plans to start decommissioning its Three Mile Island reactor this fall, unless Pennsylvania policy makers approve a rescue.

“It’s one of the few growth areas in the nuclear industry right now,” said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Indian Point is the fourth nuclear power plant that Holtec has acquired for decommissioning. Holtec last year agreed to take over Exelon’s Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey Township, N.J., which shut down in 2018. Holtec is also acquiring two other Entergy reactors, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts and the Palisades Nuclear Plant in Michigan.

The Indian Point sale includes the transfer of the licenses, spent fuel, decommissioning liabilities, and Nuclear Decommissioning Trusts for the three units. Entergy says the value of the trusts is $1.85 billion.

The Indian Point reactors have long been the target of protests from activists concerned about their location on the Hudson River, about 25 miles north of New York City. New York State fought Entergy’s plans to renew the licenses of the two operating reactors, and Entergy agreed to shut them down rather than continue to fight resistance.

A protester calls for the shutdown of the Indian Point reactors in a 2003 rally in New York City. After 9/11, shell-shocked New Yorkers were concerned that the reactors 25 miles north of New York City could become a terrorist target.
April Saul / File Photo
A protester calls for the shutdown of the Indian Point reactors in a 2003 rally in New York City. After 9/11, shell-shocked New Yorkers were concerned that the reactors 25 miles north of New York City could become a terrorist target.

Indian Point’s two reactors generate 2,144 megawatts of electricity, and produce about 12 percent of New York State’s power. Unit 2 is scheduled to shut down in 2020, and Unit 3 will retire 2021. Unit 1 operated commercially for 12 years until 1974. Its fuel was removed, and it remains dormant until the two other units retire.

Holtec’s core business is spent-fuel storage, including the manufacture of the heavy steel dry-cask canisters used to store highly radioactive spent fuel. The company, based in Jupiter, Fla., employs 400 at a factory and technology campus in Camden.

Holtec’s subsidiary that dismantles nuclear plants, Comprehensive Decommissioning International LLC, is based in Camden and is jointly owned with SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian engineering firm.

Entergy and Holtec said they would file a detailed plan in the fourth quarter of 2019, including a timetable for decommissioning and cost estimates.

Under the agreement, Holtec will transfer all of the used nuclear fuel to its dry fuel storage cask systems to be stored at on-site reinforced concrete pads, which will remain secured until the U.S. Department of Energy removes the fuel for disposal in accordance with its legal obligations.

Alternatively, Holtec could move the waste containers to its proposed interim storage facility in New Mexico.

“Holtec will execute the decommissioning of Indian Point with the same culture of excellence that has undergirded our company’s ascent to a first-tier nuclear technology firm,” Kris Singh, Holtec’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Under the agreement, Holtec would take permanent ownership of the retired power plants and its employees, and Entergy would make a clean break from the nuclear business. The Indian Point generators are Entergy’s last reactors.

Two other companies have entered the decommissioning market. Like Holtec, NorthStar Group Services Inc., which has taken over the closed Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, assumes ownership and responsibility for the reactor it decommissions.

Another nuclear services company, EnergySolutions of Salt Lake City, is decommissioning Zion Nuclear Power Station in Illinois and a nuclear plant in La Crosse, Wis., but ownership of the plants will remain with the operators once the decommissioning is completed, the NRC’s Sheehan said.