By David Madden

LACEY TOWNSHIP, NJ (CBS) — The owners of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant in Ocean County have accelerated their schedule to permanently close down the facility.

The plant went on line in December 1969, and is the oldest still in operation. Plans were to shut it down at the end of 2019. Now, it’ll close by this October.

Exelon spokeswoman Suzanne D’Ambrosio says part of the decision is based on declining profits in the nuclear industry.

“Economics plays a role but economics doesn’t play the entire role,” D’Ambrosio told KYW Newsradio. “The new timeline really helps Exelon find locations for Oyster Creek employees who want to remain with the Exelon company.”

Some 500 Exelon employees will be offered new jobs.

But the change also comes as New Jersey legislators consider a $300 million annual bailout for nuclear facilities remaining open in the state. That bailout, if approved, would be paid by consumers.

Once shut down, a lengthy decommissioning process begins.

“All of the fuel in the reactor vessel will be moved into the plant’s used fuel pool, placing the plant in what’s known as a permanently defueled status,” D’Ambrosio added. “After that, systems that are no longer required, they’ll be removed from service and either dismantled or placed in long term storage.”

The revised timetable requires state and federal approval, and D’Ambrosio says Exelon is working to make that happen.

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