Photo Courtesy of Doug Kuntz
The Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant (also known as the Wading River Nuclear Power Plant) was a General Electric boiling water reactor located in Wading River, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, 60 miles east of Manhattan. The plant was designed to produce 540 megawatts, later changed to 820.
The plant was conceived by the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) and was built between 1973 and 1984. Originally set in an area dominated by potato fields, by the time the plant was ready to operate the urban area had grown out to encroach on the site. Since the Emergency Planning Zones crossed both of the highways leading off the island, the populace was concerned that in the event of an accident evacuation would be impossible. After the 1979 Three Mile Island and the 1986 Chernobyl accidents, public opposition to the plant rose significantly.
A virtual twin, the 660 MWe Millstone 1, was ordered the same year across the sound in Connecticut. The Millstone 1 was completed for $101 million and fully operational within 5 years of receiving a construction permit. It produced power until July 21, 1998. The Long Island equivalent, however, was hampered by protests from anti-nuclear activists, causing delays and increasing the cost to over $5 billion, which was eventually paid by New York state residents and resulted in Long Island having some of the highest electricity prices in the country.
Even as it became increasingly obvious the plant would never open, LILCO performed low power testing, thereby making decommissioning a necessity, but never produced any commercial electric power, due to the fact that New York Governor Mario Cuomo's representatives did not sign the Emergency Evacuation Plan. This meant that it could not receive a full power license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), though it did receive a low power license.
On May 19, 1989, LILCO agreed not to operate the plant in a deal with the state under which most of the $6 billion cost of the unused plant was passed on to the consumers. The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), headed by Richard Kessel, was created in 1986 specifically to buy the plant from LILCO (which it did in 1992). The plant was fully decommissioned in 1994.
Strong media support came from Suffolk Life newspapers and several local weekly papers. Early and significant political backing from several town boards of eastern Suffolk Country. The Suffolk County Legislature was a prime battleground, and finally emerged in the 1980s as the most active and effective organization within the movement. (Newsday's online archives offer some historical background.)
When opposition began to form, the disdainful treatment that LILCO gave to the opposition only increased their resolve. The delays gave them plenty of time to organize and inform the public. It also highlighted the company's incompetence, which did not reassure the public of their ability to safely operate the plant.
Governor Cuomo and LILCO came to an agreement on February 28, 1989 that closed the plant and made ratepayers responsible for most of Shoreham's $6 billion price tag, more than 85 times higher than the original estimate.