The oldest nuclear plant in the United States has a month ahead of schedule. The Oyster Creek Generating Station was shut down on Monday, bringing an end to nearly 50 years of operation.
Oyster Creek first opened on December 1, 1969, on the coast of New Jersey. Over the past 49 years, the power plant has produced 636 megawatts of electricity and powered 600,000 homes. According to managing company Exelon Generation, the clean energy produced by the facility is the .
Nuclear plants like Oyster Creek are excellent at reducing carbon emissions that would otherwise be produced by coal or natural gas plants, but like Oyster Creek, many other nuclear plants are closing all over the country. They’re not required to close; Oyster Creek is certified to operate through at least 2029. But a mix of high operating and maintenance costs coupled with low electricity prices have made nuclear plants like Oyster Creek simply unprofitable.
“The decision [to close Oyster Creek] will also help Exelon better manage resources as fuel and maintenance costs continue to rise amid historically low power prices,” said Exelon Generation in a statement.
Six nuclear plants in the United States have , and a dozen more are scheduled to close in the next decade. Additional nuclear plants aren’t being built to replace them, either. Nuclear plants have high construction costs that make them impractical for all but the largest electricity grids.
This is bad news for the nuclear industry, but it’s also bad news for the environment. These closed nuclear plants are overwhelmingly replaced by natural gas plants, and last year research found that closing these plants could set the country’s clean energy goals back a full decade. Unfortunately, with the closing of Oyster Creek and many other plants, it’s not likely we’ll ever see a resurgence of American nuclear power anytime soon.