Exelon nuclear plant closing 10 years early

By Associated Press
Posted Dec. 8, 2010 at 6:07 p.m.

The nation’s oldest nuclear power plant will close in 2019 — 10 years earlier than planned — but will not have to build costly cooling towers, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation.

The people, who spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the plans ahead of an announcement expected Thursday, said the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in the Forked River section of Lacey Township will close a decade earlier than called for under its current license.

In return, the aging plant, owned by Chicago-based Exelon Corp., will not be required to build one or more cooling towers to replace its current technology, which draws 1.4 billion gallons of water a day from Barnegat Bay, killing billions of aquatic creatures each year.

The agreement over the plant’s closing is between Exelon and New Jersey officials, who will drop their demand that it build one or more cooling towers — a technology environmentalists have long wanted.

Exelon had balked at the state’s insistence on cooling towers, saying they are prohibitively costly, and said it would shutter the plant rather than build them.

The company says the $800 million it would cost to build the towers is more than the plant is worth, and it asked the state to withdraw its demand last January.

But environmentalists say the job could be done for about $200 million.

In January, the state Department of Environmental Protection required the plant to build one or more closed-cycle cooling towers instead of relying on water drawn from the Oyster Creek to cool the reactor.

The state says that process kills billions of shrimp and tens of thousands of fish, crabs and clams each year.

Plant spokesman David Benson declined comment Wednesday night.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted the Oyster Creek station a new 20-year license in April 2009, rejecting concerns by opponents centered on corrosion to a metal enclosure that keeps superheated radioactive steam within a containment building.

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  1. Starstream880 Dec. 9, 2010 at 9:14 a.m.

    “But environmentalists say the job could be done for about $200 million.” Really? Then the “environmentalists” can step right up and sign a fixed price contract, of course without any escalator clause to cover “unexpected” cost overruns or “unavoidable” expenses. Maybe Al Gore will help guarantee the deal with bonds backed by “green credits”.

  2. JackStrong Dec. 9, 2010 at 10:50 a.m.

    We’re going to see more of these sweetheart deals in the next few years between powerful utilities and politicized environmental protection agencies too timid to enforce the law.