By industry standards, the Oyster Creek Nuclear power plant in Forked River, New Jersey is ancient. It went on line in 1969, and Exelon, the rightful owners, by federal license, is entitled to operate it until 2029, 60 years after it began providing electricity to what now numbers hundreds of thousands of homes.
But Exelon now plans to permanently power down the 645 megawatt reactor in 2019. What gives? Apparently the economy. In a news release, Exelon laid out the conditions that have charted Oyster’s speeded up date with decommissioning.
“The plant faces a unique set of economic conditions and changing environmental regulations,” Exelon President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Crane Lamented.
Oyster’s value is in serious decline and it’s in need of at least $700 million worth of upgrades; coupled with depressed market prices and flat demand for electricity, making the option of shuttering it in nine years the most attractive option on the grid.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection would have forced Exelon to build new cooling towers, which essentially would have cost more than the effective worth of the plant, had it wanted to keep running the full life of its license.
Nuclear energy watchdog Eric Epstein, one of the founders of Rock The Capital, says closure is not the end, in some respects it’s the start of renewed concerns about what’s left behind.
“The closure of Oyster Creek underscores the enormous negative impact nuclear power has on the environment. Water use, radioactive plumes, and acquatic damage have to be taken into account when factoring nuclear generation,” said Epstein.
Other Nuclear plants are now also sizing up the cost versus their worth as they too will be required to install cooling towers, which the EPA favors because it cuts down on the enormous amount of water required to cool reactors. By EPA estimates, some 200 billion gallons of water are withdrawn by Nuclear generators and other plants every day.
Oyster provides 6 percent of New Jersey’s power, lighting up 600,000 homes, its not clear as to which companies will fill the void.
Exelon has no specific date set to power down and it plans to let the facility sit for ten years before demolishing it.
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