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Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant (1983: Doomsday)

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Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant

The Shoreham Plant in 2007.

The Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant is a nuclear power plant located in East Shoreham, Long Island (a borough of the Outer Lands). Adjacent to the the Long Island Sound, the plant consists of a single boiling water reactor with the power capacity of 820 megawatts. Announced in 1965 as a means to ease power consumption on Long Island, the plant gained little opposition initially. As the anti-nuclear sentiment rose in the United States of America by the 1970s, the completion of the plant was continually delayed over environmental and safety concerns of the power plant (as well as the growing costs to address these concerns).

The partially completed plant was untouched by the attacks on September 25, 1983. Due to the collapse of the United States of America and central Long Island being irradiated by the fallout, construction at the plant ceased. The site remained isolated until the late 1990s when the Outer Lands authorized the completion of the power plant. Construction was finally completed by 2001, with the nuclear reactor coming online in September of that year. Since 2002 the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant was become the primary source of power for the boroughs of Block Island and Long Island.

History

Pre-Doomsday

The announcement of a nuclear plant was made in April 1965 by the privately owned Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO). The announcement received limited opposition at the time, as there already existed several research nuclear reactors at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. At the time, demand for electricity was increasing more than ten percent per year on Long Island, and the Atomic Energy Commission was strongly pushing all power companies to use nuclear power. A 455-acre site was selected in East Shoreham, and there were also plans to construct two additional nuclear plants within Long Island. The reactor was announced to produce 540 megawatts of power, but was later expanded to produce 820 MW.

By the early 1970s, growing anti-nuclear movements across the United States of America lead to continued delays in the construction of the Shoreham plant. Many concerns were over the site's location within the flight paths from the MacArthur and New Haven Airports (siting potential concerns over a plane crash on the plant). Construction began in 1973. Cost overruns caused its estimated final cost to approach $2 billion by the late 1970s, due to low worker productivity and design changes ordered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Shoreham anti-nuclear button

A button from the June 3, 1979 protests on the power plant.

Major opposition to the Shoreham plant began after the 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island plant in Middletown, Pennsylvania, in which one of the reactors suffered a partial meltdown and radiations leaks. Following the accident, about 15,000 protesters gathered in the largest demonstration in Long Island history, with about 600 being arrested after scaling the fences of the Shoreham site. After the accident, further issues were raised over the safety of Long Island's residents. One of the main issue arose over evacuation routes in the event of a meltdown at Shoreham, with most siting that evacuating Long Island was in many cases impossible (as the only roads out of Long Island were through Lower Manhattan). On February 17, 1983, the Suffolk County Legislature announced with a 15-1 vote that the county could not be safely evacuated. Newly elected governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, ordered state officials not to approve any LILCO-sponsored evacuation plan.

Despite growing opposition, LILCO announced in March 1983 that the plant was nearing completion and would be ready for reactor testing in the Summer of 1983. Delays ultimately prolonged the completion of the plant, with estimates for its completion in early 1984.

Doomsday

On September 25, 1983, western Long Island and southern Connecticut were attacked by Soviet nuclear missiles. Despite the proximity to these attacks, the Shoreham site remained untouched during Doomsday — avoiding both the shock waves and the electromagnetic pulses from the blasts. Since construction was underway at the time, nuclear fuel and waste were not located within the energy complex (preventing future problems that plagued many nuclear plants around the world). The Shoreham site was located within the radiated zones of central Long Island, which protected the energy complex from vandalism and survivors well after Doomsday.

Following the establishment of Outer Lands in March 1984, there were growing concerns over a potential Soviet invasion, piracy, and terrorism. To counteract these growing fears, the government began marking sites within the OL to be closed off to civilians and patrolled by the military, with the Shoreham power plant being marked for protection (along with the Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Plum Island Animal Disease Center). Due to military protection and lack of resources, all construction at the site ceased. Because their offices were headquartered within the strike zones, LILCO ceased to exist. The site suffered superficial damages from Hurricane Gloria in September 1985. Despite minor damage from animals and time, the energy complex remained virtually untouched and forgotten for over a decade.

Reconstruction

Logo of OLPA (Doomsday)

Logo of OLPA.

The mid 1990s was a period of "remodernization" across the Outer Lands, with reconstruction of the power grid being seen as a main goal of this movement. While regional power plants existed on Block Island, Long Island, and Martha's Vineyard, they were all dependent on oil (which was still being rationed at the time) and virtually all power produced was rationed to areas of primary need (i.e., emergency and infrastructure). It was during this time that the nuclear plant on Long Island began to reemerge into public knowledge. The fact that the plant was nearing completion on Doomsday, many residence of Long Island (and to a lesser extent the Outer Lands as a whole) supported the notion of completing the nuclear plant. Opposition to these proposals were comparatively weaker than those of the 1970s, due in no small part to power-starved Outer Landers not particularly worried over the environmental and health impacts of the nuclear plant (with the phrase "we've been through worse" coming to symbolize the atmosphere). Polls held at the time showed only 20% of Long Islanders and 15% of Outer Landers (as a whole) opposing the reconstruction of the plant.

The outcry in support of the Shoreham plant became part of a wider outcry for reinstating power across the Outer Lands. This culminated in the Outer Lands Power Act of 1998, which addressed these growing outcries. The act establishes the government-owned electric and gas utility company OLPA (Outer Lands Power Authority), whose primary job was to reconstruct and maintain the power utilities across the Outer Lands. For Long Islanders, the act also authorized government funding to inspect and complete the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant. Outside help was needed in order to supply the plant with fuel, leading to international assistance being requested by the OL. At the time, neighboring Delmarva was in the process of dismantling their two nuclear plant and offered their assistance to the OL. A deal was struck in 1999 in which the Shoreham site would take in much of Delmarva's stockpile of used and unused nuclear fuel, with many Delmarvan nuclear technicians offering their assistance to the project. Assistance from other nations also came in, due in part to similar moves to reconstruct the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in neighboring Plymouth.

Shoreham

The turbines.

Shoreham2

The control room.

A commission was formed following the establishment of OLPA, with inspections on the energy complex beginning almost immediately. The commission took several months to complete their report, with the finds coming out in early 1999. The report stated that years of animal habitation and weather erosion have effected the plant to the point that some repairs were needed to the property, but that vital equipment (such as the reactor and turbines) have received no real damages over the years. The commission gave their go-ahead for the nuclear plant's operation. Construction at the energy complex began in May 1999, with structural repairs being completed by late 2000. Testing of non-nuclear systems took place in early 2001. Despite initial problems with the turbines, all systems gave good readings. The first shipments of nuclear fuel came into the Long Island Sound in June 2001, with low-level testing of the reactor taking place within weeks. The positive readings from the reactor during these testings began to get more attention from the public as the plant was nearing completion. In September 2001, the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant was given final approval to begin full operations. Within hours of the word, the plant began full operations, generating enough power to fully light up Long Island for the first time in decades and receiving nation-wide celebration. It wouldn't be until 2002 that needed maintenance to the borough's power grid was completed and allowing all Long Islanders to benefit from the power plant.

Contemporary

Since the activation of the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant in 2001, the residence of Long Island have benefited greatly. Rationing of oil and power across the borough have gradually ceased since the mid 2000s. For the first time since Doomsday, Long Island witnessed a population increase during the 2000s. By the mid 2000s, Delmarva had completed the dismantling of their two nuclear plants. As part of their cooperation in the deconstruction, the Outer Lands (especially OLPA) offered housing and work for the [now] unemployed Delmarvan nuclear technicians (with many accepting the offer).

ShorehamWind (Doomsday)

A press meeting upon the construction of wind turbines at the Shoreham plant.

Beginning in the mid 2000s, the Outer Lands Power Authority began moves to expand power across the Outer Lands and began promoting more green energy. The most noted push towards green energy came in the late 2000s when several wind turbines were constructed at Shoreham, increasing the total amount of power produced at the site. Around the same time, plans for a submarine power cable connection Long Island to Block Island were announced. The proposal came about over growing needs for power for the residence of New Shoreham (the national capital of the Outer Lands). The cable was completed within a few years, expanding the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant's range to include two boroughs. Proposals to further connect Shoreham to the remaining boroughs have also been proposed, especially since Cape Cod and Nantucket receive most of their electricity from the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant (owned and operated by neighboring Plymouth). Since Plymouth claimed Cape Cod as part of their territory, there were fears that Cape Cod's dependency on Plymouth could potentially be used to manipulate and blackmail Cape Codders. While still a partial concern, fears of manipulation have become moot since Plymouth officially dropped their claims to Cape Cod in August 2012. As of 2014, plans are currently underway to construct wind farms of the coasts of Block Island and Cape Cod.

Electrical-worker wide-c8f4e69bf3a9b47c08e948b6031f09ad051cf583-s6-c30

An OLPA worker repairing power lines following Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

In 2009, the borough government of Long Island officially annexed the former Town of Brookhaven into their territory, thereby opening the region up to civilians for the first time in decades. The Shoreham plant's location along the town's border further opened it up to the people, as well as encouraging resettlement of the region. The October 2012 landfall of Hurricane Sandy became the second hurricane to devastate the region since Hurricane Gloria in September 1985. The storm damaged much of the power across the Long Island, leading to some criticisms on OLPA's part. Despite the chaos, the Shoreham site remained unaffected, proving the structure's worth.

Under recent polling, about a quarter of all Outer Landers oppose the nuclear plant. In similar polls, only about 5% of Long Islanders living in the East Shoreham area oppose living near the nuclear plant. As of 2014, There are currently no plans to construct additional nuclear and non-renewable power plants within the Outer Lands. The exact future of the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant remain uncertain, though it's generally recognized that the decommissioning of the plant shouldn't happen for several decades if all parameters remain unchanged.

Structure

The Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant (as with any nuclear power plant) uses the radioactive properties of uranium and plutonium to generate heat (a process known as nuclear fission). These radioactive elements are encased in a reactor core along with water. The heat from the core turns the encased water into steam, which is then used to spin turbines (which in turn produce electricity). The used steam is than condensed back into water to be reintroduced back into the nuclear reactor (starting the process over again). The Shoreham Plant consists of a single boiling water reactor (BWR). Unlike the more common pressurized water reactor (PWR), the core of a BWR directly boils water to the point it turns into steam. To help control the temperature of the reactor core, a series of control rods are encased at the bottom of the reactor (or the top for PWRs). Made up boron, silver, indium, and cadmium; these elements absorb stray neutrons from the uranium and plutonium. The more control rods added to the reactor core, the less fission takes place (to the point of shutting down the reactor core).

Bm-shoreham

A 1994 aerial view of the Shoreham energy complex (with the main buildings located near the center right of the image).

The reactor core is encased within a containment building which are designed (especially among nuclear plants built within the former United States of America) to both encase radiation in the event of a leak and to protect the core from outside threats (designed to withstand the impact of a plane crash). The containment building at Shoreham is a cylindrical-shaped building with blueish paneling (including a iconic "triangular-shaped" piece) circling the top, arguably the most iconic structure within the energy complex. The containment building also holds several pools used for storing spent fuel. Nuclear fuel can last up to a few years before they become useless for producing power, but are still too hot and radioactive to simply throw away. These pools encase these heated rods with cool water (which also blocks radiation from escaping). Spent fuel will usually spend up to a decade within these pools before they are cool enough to be placed in dry storage, but will remain radioactive for centuries.

The water and steam used within the reactor core and turbines are kept within a closed system due to radioactivity (meaning they will continue to be used within the system and not reintroduced into the environment). A second system of water (untouched by the first) is used in the process of condensing the steam back into water. In the process, this second system of water is heated. Since this second system never came into contact with radioactive elements, it is then naturally condensed and reintroduced back into the environment. Many plants use iconic cooling towers to condense this steam naturally back into water (with non-radioactive water vapor exiting at the top and water pooling at the bottom). The Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant doesn't utilize these iconic structures and instead was designed to use a system known as "once-though cooling" (OTC). This system doesn't require cooling towers and instead uses the waters of the Long Island Sound to cool steam and simply reintroduces it back into the sound once its done. Many nuclear plants use this system when located in water-rich areas (such as a coast). A large man-made dam/reservoir was built to assure water was coming in from the Sound.

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