(Exelon) Reactor shutdown to empty coffers

APP.com

LACEY — Property tax bills won't spike immediately after the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant closes in 2019.

But the 41-year-old plant's closure will be "devastating to the township," Mayor Gary Quinn said.

In an agreement this week with the state, which had wanted the plant to build cooling towers to protect Barnegat Bay sea life, plant owner Exelon Corp. agreed to close the plant a decade early. In turn, the state agreed not to require Exelon to put up the cooling towers that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Oyster Creek is the nation's oldest operating commercial U.S. nuclear plant. A state energy tax provides the township with $11.1 million a year in revenue, more than a third of its $27 million budget. Lacey receives the energy tax proceeds because it hosts a major energy-producing facility.

"We wouldn't see all that revenue dry up (in 2019) as it would take time to dismantle the plant, but we'd also inherit the problem of the fuel rod storage," Quinn said. "Originally, that radioactive material was intended to be sent to a facility in Nevada, and that plan is no more."

The plant has hundreds of tons of high-level radioactive waste inside the reactor building and in dry cask storage near Route 9.

As one of the largest employers in Ocean County, Oyster Creek annually provides more than $70 million in wages, property taxes and purchases of goods and services from New Jersey businesses.

This year, the average homeowner's property tax in Lacey was $4,564. That's 1.4 percent higher than last year but well below the state average of $7,544.

Exelon will mothball the plant after 2019, and the facility is not expected to be dismantled and fully decommissioned until 2035 or later, spokesman David Benson has said. Exelon has up to six decades to decommission the facility.

Township Clerk and Business Administrator Veronica Laureigh said the township will now have to develop a plan to set aside money for the transition to adjust its tax base for when the plant shuts down.

During a Township Committee meeting on Thursday, Lacey resident Gary Vaccaro said his major concern about the early closure was the need for a cleanup.

Laureigh said Oyster Creek pays about $2 million a year in property taxes, nearly $259,000 of which goes to the township. Schools receive $1.3 million and the county gets about $460,000.

Bob Vosseller: 732-557-5623; Rvosseller@app.com ; Todd B. Bates: 732-643-4237; tbates@app.com; www.twitter.com/ToddBBatesAPP

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