Oyster Creek plant soon may be for sale again
By DEREK HARPER Staff Writer, (609)
LACEY TOWNSHIP - Financial troubles across the
Atlantic may lead to the sale of the local nuclear power plant, just
two years after it was bought.
The Oyster Creek Generating
Station is up for sale, as one of the part-owners faces severe
financial problems, said township officials. Committeemen Rod
Sterling and John Parker said plant Vice-President Ron DeGregorio
told them and other members of the Citizens Task Force that because
of British Energy's problems, the plant would be
DeGregorio could not be reached Wednesday afternoon.
British Energy PLC and the Exelon Corporation both hold 50 percent
stakes in AmerGen, the company that owns the Forked River station,
as well as two other plants.
An Exelon spokeswoman denied
that they were looking for buyers because of British Energy's
difficulties. "We didn't have any insider knowledge of their
difficulties," said Linda Marsicano, Exelon's Chicago-based manager
of external communications.
Instead, she said her company's
announcement that it was "in the preliminary stages of exploring the
possibility of a sale" of its half of AmerGen, which came out the
day before British Energy's announcements, was unrelated. Exelon
wants to raise money to possibly purchase something closer to
one-third its size, she said, instead of AmerGen's equal
At its highest in 1998, British Energy was
valued at £1.5 billion, reported the Manchester Guardian (UK)
Monday, but is now worth around £200 million, or $310 million. On
Monday, the British government approved an emergency £401 million,
or $640 million, short-term loan. The company's stock declined
further when it could not guarantee that it would remain solvent
after the Sept. 27 deadline.
The company's financial strength
has declined in recent months, reported British newspapers. In late
August, two Scottish power stations went off line, one for
maintenance and the other because of a technical fault. On Monday,
the Guardian reported that the company has an additional £349
million, or $542 million, liability stemming from a failed
partnership it undertook with Enron when a Welsh energy group was
The company was privatized in 1996 and provides
about a quarter of Britain's energy needs.
is this nation's largest operator
of nuclear plants.
The AmerGen partnership, formed in
1999, bought Three Mile Island for $100 million in 1999 and Oyster
Creek for $10 million the year following. At the time, Oyster Creek
was headed to decommissioning.
Three Mile Island could now
be worth $340 to $600 million, said utility analyst Daniele Seitz of
Salomon Smith Barney Inc. in New York to the Harrisburg (Pa.)
Patriot-Ledger. She did not tell them an estimated value for Oyster
Creek. When reached, she declined to speak to The Press.
also told the Patriot-Ledger that Exelon may wish to dissolve the
partnership and buy some of its assets outright. Both would be
desirable properties, since there is a strong demand for electricity
in the communities they serve.
Analysts speculated that if
Oyster Creek is offered for sale, bidders may include Dominion
Energy of Richmond, Va., New Orleans-based Entergy Nuclear of New
Orleans and the Jacksonville, Fla. Florida Power & Light Co.
Dominion and Florida Power & Light spokespeople declined
to comment on business planning.
"We have said for three
years that we are interested if there is a nuclear plant for sale,
we want to talk to the owners. We have been pursuing a major nuclear
growth strategy for the last four years, and we continue to be
interested in any nuclear plants in the United States," said Entergy
spokesman Carl Crawford.
The sale talk comes at a time when
Oyster Creek has never been more productive.
The station, in
the middle of its 18th cycle of operation, produced more than
9.53-megawatt hours, topping the previous record set in 1998, said
plant officials in a release.
Township officials said because
of the plants productivity, they don't think the plant will be shut
John Parker, who was on the Township Committee when the
plant opened in 1969, said he was confident that whoever bought the
plant would keep it running. It has remained productive.
township depends on the plant. Lacey Township this year received
$11.2 million from the state in sales tax from the plant, as well as
$1.4 million in real estate taxes. This year the town's budget is
$18 million, Parker said.
"Everything Lacey Township has,
since 1969, can be attributed to the nuclear plant," he
To e-mail Derek Harper at The