LACEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CN) – The oldest nuclear power plant in the country will shut down later today, months earlier than scheduled and a decade before its license runs out.
Located by the Jersey Shore, about 50 miles east of Philadelphia in Lacey Township, Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station went online on Dec. 1, 1969, and was granted the country’s first nuclear power plant license.
That license was renewed for an additional 20-year term in 2009, a year after the plant was integrated into Exelon Generation, but talks soon turned to closing the plant after efforts to beef up its cooling systems fell through.
Earlier this year, after Holtec International purchased rights to the facility and unused nuclear fuel, plans to decommission Oyster Creek gathered steam. The deal with Holtec is expected to be finalized next year, pending approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Oyster Creek originally was scheduled to be closed no later than December 2019 as part of an agreement with New Jersey.
Recently the facility employed about 400 workers and was said to power roughly 600,000 homes in the state.
Its owner, Exelon Corp., has repeatedly claimed over the years that the plant was safe, but environmental groups have long claimed it has polluted the nearby Barnegat Bay, creating algae blooms, overheating the water and killing off many fish populations.
In 2010, state and federal regulators found tritium had leached into nearby water sources, caused by one of the plant’s emergency shutdowns in 2007.
Emergency shutdowns have been persistent for the plant, with one occuring earlier this year when high winds and low tides reduced the amount of water used for cooling.
New Jersey had put forth plans to build cooling towers for the 670 megawatt facility, but those plans were scrapped in 2010 after then-Governor Chris Christie instead began negotiating the plant’s closure.
“It’s important that Oyster Creek is closing early, because it should have closed a long time ago,” said New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel in a statement. “This plant was a disaster waiting to happen so it’s vital for our coast that it’s closing early. This plant is a dinosaur and it’s good that it’s going extinct.”
Ninety-eight power plants now remain active in the United States.
The oldest operating nuclear plant is now Nine Mile Point Nuclear Generating Station in upstate New York. Though it went online the same day as Oyster Creek, it received its license on a later date.