International power alliance GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy has publicly announced its intent to transfer ownership of the Vallecitos Nuclear Center in Sunol to NorthStar Group Services, Inc. for further nuclear decontamination, decommissioning and environmental site restoration.
The proposed transaction, which includes an asset purchase and sale agreement whose terms have not been revealed, is subject to regulatory review and approval by multiple state and federal agencies. The 1,600-acre facility is located on Highway 84 (also known as Vallecitos Road in that stretch) between interstates 580 and 680.
"We have explored strategic alternatives for the site that align to our long-term strategy, changing customer needs and the external business environment," Jay Wileman, president and CEO of GE Hitachi, said in a statement May 9. "By transferring the site to a recognized decommissioning expert like NorthStar, we can continue meeting our near-term requirements while maintaining focus on our core business product lines."
The Vallecitos Nuclear Center, which used to operate as a electricity-generating nuclear power plant more than 60 years ago, has remained open as a nuclear research center, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, which manages the privately owned site through its Office of Legacy Management.
GE Hitachi noted that it has already started decommissioning the Vallecitos Boiling Water Reactor, the General Electric Test Reactor and the ESADA Vallecitos Experimental Superheat Reactor at the property.
Company officials said that as part of the proposed transfer deal, GE Hitachi and NorthStar have signed an asset purchase and sale agreement and will sign a decommissioning completion agreement at closing. Terms of the transaction are not being disclosed to the public, according to a GE Hitachi spokesperson.
The deal will impact approximately 40 employees at the facility, according to GE Hitachi, which said it will provide benefits and resources to all affected workers who are not able to secure alternative positions within General Electric by the time of closing.
"GEH will work with the appropriate government entities to complete the license transfer process in a timely manner," the company said. "Until all transfers are complete, GEH is responsible for the facility and is taking the appropriate steps to ensure the site remains safe and compliant."
Public agencies involved in the transfer review process include the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the California Department of Health, among others.
The Vallecitos facility holds a unique place in American history, as the first commercially owned nuclear power plant to supply energy to the general public when it was operational from 1957-63, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Key research was subsequently conducted there from 1965-75, as well as in 1981 and 1982, for the federal Atomic Energy Commission's Nuclear Energy Program and the civilian nuclear power industry.
The Department of Energy and GE Hitachi undertook a major decontamination and nuclear waste materials removal project at Vallecitos in 2009 and 2010, focusing on a hot cell and glove box previously used for government-sponsored research at the site, according to the federal agency.
GE Hitachi is an alliance between global corporations General Electric and Hitachi focused on the nuclear power industry worldwide. NorthStar, based in New York City, is an international contractor with particular experience in commercial and government decommissioning and closure projects at nuclear facilities.
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