The Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, the oldest running nuclear plant in the country, will shut down Monday, the latest reminder of the nuclear industry’s plight.
Commissioned in 1969 on the central New Jersey coastline, the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station has been a major source of zero-emissions energy for five decades. However, like other nuclear faculties across the country, the plant will be shutting down its doors earlier than expected. The 625 megawatt single-unit reactor was first scheduled to be closed on Dec. 31, 2019, but its retirement date has been accelerated to Monday, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Regulatory factors played a role in the plant’s early demise. Oyster Creek received a 20-year license renewal from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2009, but Exelon — the plant’s owner — reached an agreement with regulators in 2010 to retire the plant much sooner. If the plant had remained open, Exelon would have had to spend over $800 million to install cooling towers in order to comply with stricter environmental regulations.
The closure of Oyster Creek brings to light the uphill battle the nuclear industry currently faces. The 632 megawatt facility is the sixth nuclear plant to close in just the last five years. The immediate future does not look any better, with twelve nuclear reactors scheduled to close down within the next seven years.
However, New Jersey has taken steps to keep its two remaining nuclear plants financially viable. New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law legislation that offers subsidies to its Salem and Hope Creek nuclear generating stations. Keeping the plants operational allows New Jersey to generate large amount of electricity while not producing carbon emissions, helping the state reach its environmental goals. (RELATED: New Jersey Steps In To Keep Nuclear Power Plants From Closing)
Nuclear reactors are capable of producing energy at a far greater rate than renewable sources such as wind and solar. Oyster Creek, for example, generated 5.4 million megawatt hours of electricity in 2017 — nearly double the amount of the solar photovoltaic systems in the state of New Jersey. Nuclear energy is essential in reducing the word’s climate emissions, a study by MIT concluded.
The Trump administration has entertained a bailout plan for at-risk coal and nuclear plants. If implemented, the plan would mandate purchases from a select group of coal and nuclear facilities for two years while the government conducts an extensive study on the U.S.’ evolving energy landscape.
State legislatures across the country and federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also grappled with how to rescue the ailing nuclear energy sector. Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, for example, introduced bipartisan legislation that would enhance investment in the nuclear industry and extend the length of time of federal power purchase agreements.
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