Why Is The Unfinished 50 Year Old Satsop Nuclear Plant Still Standing?

Satsop Nuclear Power Plant in Elma, Washington

The Washington Public Power Supply System initiated the largest construction project for nuclear power plants in U.S. history in the 1970s: reactors 1, 2, and 4 at Hanford, and reactors 3 and 5 at Satsop, west of Olympia. The project was scrapped as the budget swelled to $25 billion and public sentiment turned against nuclear power (particularly after Three-Mile Island). 

In the end, only one plant was completed: Washington Nuclear Power Unit 2 (now known as the Columbia Generating Station), located on the Hanford Reserve. Construction was well underway at Satsop, and plant number 3 was approximately 76 percent complete, with the reactor built. Cooling towers were left in place, 480 feet tall-which had never generated a breath of steam-while all power generation machinery was removed. Since then, the site has grown into a special business/technology park. It is now known as Energy Northwest, the Washington Public Power Supply Grid.

The nuclear power plant was 76% complete when the project was canceled; dismantling the structure would have cost millions, so it was left standing. 


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