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Oldest US Nuke Plant Going Way of the Dinosauers

by Michael Steinberg Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at 7:27 PM

Next October the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in New Jersey, the oldest in the US, will be closing after nearly 50 years of running and releasing radiation into the environment that has likely harmed untold number of people.

Nuclear Shutdown News February 2018

Michael Steinberg Black Rain Press

On February 2, 2018 the Asbury Park Press, Bruce Springsteen's hometown newspaper, reported that the New Jersey Oyster Creek nuclear power plant is "to shut down for good in October more than a year ahead of schedule-in a surprise announcement by plant owner Exelon."

The Park Press also reported the nuke plant is the "oldest in the US" and will be 49 years old when it it ceases operations.

Oyster Creek started up at the end of the year in 1969, as Richard Nixon was finishing his first year in office as ill-fated president. Its history illustrates many of the follies and fallacies that are now plaguing this country through the decadent nuclear power industry not that many years after it was "Born in the USA", as The Boss put it in his scathing critique of our corrupt society in general.

Oyster Creek is a boiling water reactor, the same model as the Fukushima plants that melted down in 2011, like Oyster Creek built by General Electric from my former home state of Connecticut. Nestled in south Jersey among oil refineries and other chemical facilities forever belching toxic streams into surrounding airways and waterways, this nuke, like all others in the US, was designed to last only 40 years. That it has been allowed to continue operating for almost 10 more years is another testament to utility companies blind pursuit of profit, aided and abetted by authorities like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), at the expense of heightened risk to the public's health and safety.

Oyster Creek's original owner was the innocuous sounding GPU, a New Jersey company. In 1999, When the plant was already 30 years old, that outfit sold the plant to Amergen for $10 million, a pittance compared to its original price of nearly $500 million in '69. Later Amergen was taken over by Chicago-based Exelon, the US's longest owner of nuclear plants.

By this time the nuclear industry stateside was already beginning to lag. Few new nukes were built after the meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979, and an attempt to build new nukes under Bush II failed after Wall Street refused to finance it.

So nuclear utilities like Exelon took to buying up aging nukes like Oyster Creek at firesale prices and milk them for all they were worth, which was already approaching less than zero.

Another approach was to assert that life began at 40 for nuclear reactors, one the NRC was only too happy to cooperate with, and began to handing out 20 year license extensions to utilities like bonuses to bank officers. Exelon got one for Oyster Creek in 2009, despite concerted opposition from local no nukes groups, meaning that the plant could, theoretically run until 2029.

But this was not to be.

More age related problems began showing up at Oyster Creek. Releases of tritium, radioactive hydrogen created to plant radioactive releases, were discovered in 2009, and have continued to migrate away from the plant into the environment, a common characteristic at older nukes.

Then in 2012 Superstorm Sandy's storm surge and hurricane winds caused severe flooding inside Oyster Creek and offsite electricity loss threatened backup safety systems.

But even before that, in 2011, Exelon decided to close the plant in 2019, 10 years earlier than the license extortion permitted.

And why the sudden change now? Nuclear power increasingly isn't the money maker it once was. Twin demon frack gas is cheaper. while renewables wind and solar are taking stage center too. Nor does Exelon want to put up the money to maintain a nearly 50 year old nuclear plant.

And so, as next Halloween approaches, Exelon will let Oyster Creek fly away.

In his 1996 book The Enemy Within:The High Cost of Living Near Nuclear Reactors, author Jay Gould and associates from the Radiation and Public Health Project ( have this to say about the health effects of Oyster Creek and two other adjacent nuke plants, Salem and Hope Creek:

"The 9 counties closest to these reactors registered a combined age-adjusted breast cancer mortality increase since 1950-54 of 9 percent, which is significantly greater than the national increase of 1 percent. Possibly because the counties within 100 miles include some of the nation's highest concentrations of chemical wastes, their combined rate of 28.8 deaths per 100,000 appears to be, along with that of New Jersey,among the highest in the nation."

Of course over two decades have passed since this book appeared, during which time Oyster Creek was allowed to keep running and releasing radiation into the environment, and harm untold numberd of people.

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