Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station is only seven years from closure, and local legislators, residents, and government officials met in Lacey address what the region will do when one of its largest employers closes down for good.

Ilya Hemlin, Townsquare Media

The meeting, held in the Forked River Middle School in Lacey, was spearheaded by Congressman Jon Runyan as a way to discuss the future of the Southern Ocean County region once Oyster Creek shut its doors. In attendance were local mayors from Lacey, Barnegat, and Waretown as well as several members of their council's.

Legislators from all levels of government also were in attendance. There were also presentations from various government organizations including the Board of Public Utilities, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Department of Labor. Birdsall Consulting also was in attendance.

Lacey Mayor Mark Dykoff notes the meeting is especially important because many residents not only rely on Oyster Creek for their livelihood, but also for the tax relief the plant provides. With so much of the economic infrastructure dependent on the plant Dykoff says it's important to be proactive rather than reactive and start planning for the future as early as possible.

"I use the example of Fort Monmouth they are just reacting to their closing, we are reacting seven or eight years before closing."

Dykoff says one advantage they have is Oyster Creek's decommissioning process, which could take over a decade to complete.

"The spent fuel in the pool has to stay there for a minimum of ten years, so they have to maintain operations there."

Ilya Hemlin, Townsquare Media

Janet Tauro, chair of the board of directors of the New Jersey Environmental Federation, says one of the biggest problems is everyone "putting the cart before the horse" and not focusing more on the issue of decommissioning.

"A decommissioning of Oyster Creek means job, jobs, jobs, jobs. It means jobs for up to a dozen years it would take about six hundred and fifty skilled workers to take the plant apart."

Lacey officials are proposing a gas plant that would go in the space where Oyster Creek currently resides. Dykoff says the goal of the proposal is 'feasibility'. The Township paid for a feasibility study to start the process of drafting a "shovel ready" plan.

"That seems to be the catchphrase for all projects going forward and approvals. Interested parties who might come in want to know is it feasible before they spend a lot of money."

While early signs are positive in terms of the feasibility study, Dykoff says one of the early hurdles they are facing is bringing gas to the site.

"That's something that we have to work with the state of New Jersey very closely and that's why I was so happy to see a representative from the DEP here. To show that they are on board with us and moving forward."