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14 Comments

  1. Nine years is a long time, Rod. I wouldn’t write the plant off yet. The German anti-nukes thought they had the nuclear phaseout there all sewn up, but their lengthy phaseout timeline has worked against them.

  2. I agree with Finrod. I used to work for GPU (Oyster Creek and Three Mile Island). This is not the first threat to their future. OC was in the midst of a planned shutdown about 10 years ago and was recovered by a sale to AmerGen/Exelon and resulted in significant investment to plant infrastructure. And there were others before this. That change came about due to changes in the market. I expect the plant to endure to 2029, or even beyond.

  3. Rod,
    I completely agree with the sentiment of your post — NJ will be losing 6% of its electricity generating capacity if and when OC goes away — but I felt the headline is misleading. Yes, it has been in a struggle against antinuclear, pro-natural gas activists (along with almost every other nuclear plant) for a long time … but I don’t see that as why Exelon decided to close it.
    Faced with a requirement to spend $1B in building a cooling tower by environmental regulators, it was a business decision. It had to be.
    I’m not an environmental engineer, but I’d like to see some evaluation of the tradeoffs between the effect of slightly warmer cooler water vs. the CO2 emissions from the equivalent replacement natural gas and coal plants. I wish the regulators had considered this in their analysis.

  4. Quick question about that comment in the article, “the State of New Jersey has determined that the waste heat from the plant is warming the Atlantic Ocean enough to warrant a requirement to spend approximately a billion dollars building a closed cycle cooling system.”
    I’m no environmental scientist. It seems to me that a large concentration of heat at a ‘point source’ could adversely affect the local ecosystem (say within a few hundred meters or a few kilometers) of the plant, even if the total heating effect on the *entire Altantic ocean* is totally negligible? Is it possible that Nuclear plants dumping hot water into the ocean might create a ‘local deadzone’? I remember reading somewhere that the warmer water gets (it doesn’t have to be boiling hot, IIRC, just warmer than a certain temperature, like bathwater warm or something), it loses the ability to hold oxygen in sufficient concentrations, and aquatic life in the area can start to die?

    1. Jeff-
      From a quick Google search, the following link might answer some of your questions. This comes from NUREG-1437. Section 4.2.2.1.9 says in part, “Effects of low DO [Dissolved Oxygen] concentrations are considered to be of small significance for all plants.”
      http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr1437/v1/part04.html#_1_87
      There is more information here about the thermal effects on aquatic life from plants with once-through cooling.

    2. @Jeff
      The concerns about the water discharge temperature are a valid concern. No one is debating that issue.
      However there are several illogical and self-serving issues where OysterCreek has been the subject of this decades long focused attacks by so-called environmental groups.
      The first is that nuclear plants are not the only type of industrial facility that discharges to the rivers or oceans in that region. However the “environmental” groups have focused their public attention strictly on the nuclear plants. Some would say this is to generate donors since it is much easier to get free money to continue to fund their profession of campaigning against nuclear power by claiming a nuclear plant is killing wildlife then trying to make the same claim about a refinery or chemical plant of which there are many in NJ and NY. Others would say these groups receive their serious funding from groups that have the ultimate goal of removing large quantities of nuclear generated power from the grid to increase their own bottom line.
      Another reason these “environmental” groups focued on Oyster Creek is just a serious lack of understanding of how our industrial society has been built up over the past number of decades since most advocates against nuclear power are recipients of law degrees, poly sci degrees or some other similar liberal arts degree where little actual technical information is taught. For some these people it is a wake-up call when they finally realize nuclear power plants are not the only industrial facility that can discharge higher temperature water back into the local waterways (at least those that are honest about actually caring for the environment not focused on being anti-nuclear first and then environmentally concerned second) I attribute to this tunnel vision effect of a singular focus on nuclear power plant to the constant, decades long PR against nuclear power by groups such as Greenpeace and the Riverkeepers which also leads to an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality.
      The second issue many of us have with this closure is that the “environmental” groups real goal has always been to shut down Oyster Creek, not solve the discharge temp concern. The water temp discharge issue is just the latest tactic they are using in their decades long fight to shut down the facility and it appears it might be successful. They have tried many tactics such as the local tourist trade is being affected by having a nuclear power plant within in site of the shoreline, storage of spent fuel endangers the local area, and so on which weren’t successful.
      There are alternatives that would accomplish the same goal of resolving discharge temps but these groups will not accept any other solution. They will only accept the one solution which is the most expensive and that is cooling towers which they know is not acceptable to Exleon for those very real financial concerns.
      So these groups are not looking for real solutions to water discharge temp concerns. They are strictly focused on the closure of Oyster Creek despite the fact, as Rod points out, this will mean an increase in GHG’s as more natural gas plants will come on line to fill the hole created once Oyster Creek goes off-line.

  5. If I remember correctly, Oyster Creek was the first Generation II nuclear power plant, a one-of-a-kind BWR/2 whose unique feature is its 6 (?!) external recirculation loops (and it’s vintage isolation condenser)…it was the first plant to produce more than Yankee Rowe’s ~200 MWe or so.
    Sad to see it go…but then again, 10 years is a long time from now, and things might change by then. At least in terms of gas, what goes down, could well be back up.

    1. No, Nine Mile Point Unit 1 is the same design (BWR-2). And the two plants came into service at about the same time. Oyster Creek was first connected to the grid in late September 1969, Nine Mile, less than 2 months later. Both report the beginning of commercial operation on 01-Dec of that year. When I was at Oyster Creek, we were using the NMP-1 simulator for operator training.
      The bottom link below has some good information about the various BWR vintages.
      http://www.iaea.org/cgi-bin/db.page.pl/pris.prdeta.htm?country=US&site=OYSTER%20CREEK&units=&refno=219&link=HOT&sort=&sortlong=Alphabetic
      http://www.iaea.org/cgi-bin/db.page.pl/pris.prdeta.htm?country=US&site=NINE%20MILE%20POINT&units=&refno=220&link=HOT&sort=&sortlong=Alphabetic
      http://www.iaea.org/NuclearPower/Downloads/Simulators/Advanced.BWR.Manual.2009-10.pdf

  6. New reactors are not being built at a rate to replace old reactor closings. It is time to do the hardest thing in American culture, reduce accumulated nuclear regulation to parity with our industrial competition. (If you reduce regulatory burden – new reactors will come).
    Anti-nuclear groups helped frame and bring into being the current NRC pure regulator approach where DOE acts as a technology advocate and NRC acts as an adversarial and largely hostile regulator. AEC contained both functions, and over 100 reactors were started in a span of 25 years. It has now been over thirty years under NRC regulation and no new commercial reactors have been started in that time – regardless of new reforms and combined operating license streamlining. A balanced matching of regulatory burden and risks for all energy types is the right direction. Irrational fear has set the regulatory burden for nuclear up too high and delays for certifications and licenses too long. You cannot have a nuclear renaissance without reducing nuclear regulation that prices up this and makes nuclear unchosable for communities that need power.
    While separating the regulatory functions of advocate and gate keeper seemed like a good idea in 1975, this has proved not to be the case. I favor returning to an effective single regulator, like the FAA in the aviation industry. We need a regulator that combines functions and delivers better ultimate value to the nation. Opponents may argue that having a single regulator that is both advocate and gatekeeper builds in a intrinsic conflict of interest. I believe that combining the functions builds into the regulating agency prudent balance, rapid closed loop internal feedback, and rapid response to changing conditions. A hostile “pure regulator” can keep damaging regulation it

  7. To first order, the Atlantic ocean is an infinite heat sink. The excess heat carried away by ocean cooling water will certainly not warm the Atlantic ocean further than a tiny 100 to 200 foot plume right at the plant cooling water discharge point. All power generators that depend on use of turbine-generators, including natural gas plants, have nearly identical requirements for cooling water(gallons per Megawatt electrical power output). How do State regulators figure that switching the heat source from nuclear to natural gas will gain them anything?

    1. Also, from looking at the satellite photo on Google maps, the Oyster Creek plant is about a mile inland from the ocean shore. There is a long canal that directs the water out of the plant and into the sea. If the air temperature is low enough, the water is going to cool more as it moves down the canal. Nevertheless, the state says the plant is killing ocean critters, and Exelon says they are going to shut down. Cooling towers are considered superior to once-through systems. Unless something happens in the next few years, I will expect the plant to shut down as planned.

      1. Pete, I live 7 miles south of OC in Manahawkin. The discharge creek directs the water into the Barnegat Bay, not the Atlantic Ocean. There is a narrow barrier island (1/2 mile wide) about three miles east of OC with the Atlantic on the eastern side of that. The Atlantic flows into the bay through Barnegat Inlet about 4 miles south of OC. There have always been complaints about fish kills in the bay where the warm discharge water meets the bay, and the enviros and their friends in the media always made sure it was on the front page. You can drive through the area on Rt 9 any day in the summer and see guys fishing along the banks of the creek, and fishing in the bay is as productive as it’s always been with the ebb/flow from the ocean nearby.The State caved to the enviros wanting a closed-loop cooling system, with large cooling towers, as a means to force Exelon to close OC – the enviros won with help from the state. Realistically Exelon should have been in planning and permitting stage to build OC II on the same property and have it critical before retiring the current reactor but the enviros run the state not the elected politicians.

        1. @Mark – Where do you think that the people that you label as “enviros” get their political clout in a land where dollars are worshiped above all else?
          There is no doubt that there has been an effective, well organized and sustained campaign to close Oyster Creek, but it is part of a worldwide campaign to slow or halt the growth of nuclear energy. I have been at this a long time, and realized years ago that “follow the money” is often great advice when you are trying to understand something that appears to be irrational. If someone is truly concerned about the environment, they should study, observe, measure and calculate to determine the best human technologies to perform needed or desired tasks. If the goal is electricity production, the very best source, by all measures of effectiveness, is atomic fission. If the people who opposed nuclear energy really were environmentalists, they would not oppose, but support.
          Since that is not the case, you have to dig deeper to find out that the antinuclear activists really are more concerned about encouraging the deployment of natural gas fired power production or the development of unreliable and physically imposing wind and solar systems. Those unreliable sources demand gas burning power plants to supply the power whenever they are not – which works out to about 70-80% of the time.
          QED – the money, marketing plans and organizational skill behind antinuclear activism comes directly from one of the most concentrated, undemocratic, autocratic, plutocratic, source of money in the world – the multinational petroleum industry and its hangers on who inhabit banks, railroads, pipeline companies, advertiser supported media outlets, and political back rooms.

  8. I found this statement by Richard Rhodes (delivered at the Opening Session of the 34th Japan Atomic Industrial Forum Annual Conference, Aomori City, Japan, 25 April 2001) in an old back issue of Atomic Insights (thanks for toiling in this garden for the last fifteen years Rod!)

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