In sharp contrast to the pro-nuclear energy rhetoric of the Administration, some nuclear power plant owners are considering shutting down their facilities. Exelon, owner of the New Jersey Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, recently announced that it plans to close the plant 10 years early because of EPA regulations aimed at reducing the environmental impact of plants’ cooling water intake systems.
Currently, Oyster Creek employs the accepted “best technology available”—based on a site-specific cost-benefit analysis—and uses water from nearby Barnegat Bay to cool the reactor. This is no longer good enough for regulators. The EPA’s revision of Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act determines that the thermal discharge released into the Bay from this “once-through” cooling system is too damaging to organisms there. Oyster Creek would have had to install large cooling towers to accommodate the new rule, but spending eight years and $700–800 million simply did not make economic sense.