Six years ago the New Jersey Economic Development Authority granted Holtec International the second-largest tax break in state history to get it to relocate its headquarters to Camden.
The potential $260 million tax credit over 10 years was hailed for bringing high-tech, very-good-paying jobs to New Jersey’s neediest city.
It also positioned New Jersey to be a leader in advancing the nuclear industry toward its necessary contribution to meeting state and national goals of eliminating greenhouse gases contributing to global warming by mid-century.
And that’s what Holtec has done since. It moved its headquarters to Camden in 2017, earning its first $26 million tax credit. It developed, received approval for and started to execute a plan to close and remediate the Oyster Creek nuclear generating station in Lacey Township in a fraction of the time that had been expected.
Just before Christmas, Lacey Township accepted a settlement allowing Holtec to place at the former Oyster Creek plant 20 more casks for nuclear waste, secure steel and concrete storage containers of its own design. There were already 48 on the site. The casks and Holtec’s decommissioning plan already had been approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC.
Earlier in the month, Holtec was selected to receive $116 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to design and build a small, modular nuclear reactor incapable of overheating. That would be inherently safer and an improvement on the industry’s already excellent safety record.
Also this month, Holtec applied to the NRC to transfer licenses for the Palisades Nuclear Plant in Covert, Michigan, to Holtec so it can shut down and start decommissioning the facility in spring 2022.
The NRC in November had approved the similar transfer of New York’s large Indian Point Energy Center to Holtec. Next year, when Indian Point’s third nuclear reactor shuts down, Holtec will begin decommissioning the plant and reclaiming the land for public use. It expects to do so in a quarter of the time previously estimated.
You’d think New Jersey politicians would celebrate having a cutting edge corporation helping tap the nuclear energy that is the only way the world can have the zero-emission baseline power needed to counter climate change. But environmental organizations have raised too much money by fear mongering nuclear power over the years, and are too vested in seeing taxpayer and ratepayer dollars go to their preferred non-nuclear energy companies.
The politics doesn’t work for Gov. Phil Murphy, and not only because environmental organizations are among his ardent supporters. Last year, when Murphy demonized tax incentives as a way to attack his political foes, Holtec was a prime target. South Jersey political boss George Norcross III is on the board of Holtec, as opposed to the North Jersey political bosses from whom Murphy bought the Democratic nomination that made him governor.
So Murphy’s EDA withheld Holtec’s next tax credit payment, on dubious grounds that aren’t applied to companies connected to his political bosses. This has forced Holtec to sue to get New Jersey to live up to its agreement that brought the company to Camden.
Even Lacey Township had to be sued just to keep cleaning up the former Oyster Creek. The township had tried to deny the additional waste storage casks, demanding a timeline for the waste’s removal to a more permanent site.
Permanent nuclear waste storage, of course, has been blocked by politics at the national level. Same small-minded, science-ignoring approach, but with higher stakes.
The Yucca Mountain permanent site would have been approved in Nevada years ago were it not blocked by former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
Holtec has an application before the NRC to develop a mid-term storage facility in New Mexico. This would be much more secure than leaving the waste scattered around the country at former nuclear generating stations.
This month Murphy decided incentives for corporations are now good, signing into law a new program to provide up to $14 billion in tax breaks over seven years.
Let Holtec’s experience be a warning to companies considering the bait politicians must offer to make the state look even tolerable to business. New Jersey not only has the worst business tax and regulatory climate in the nation, it’s also run by self-serving and unreliable politicians.