Trojan Nuclear Power Plant

The Trojan Nuclear Power plant was a single-unit nuclear power station located on the Columbia River near Rainier, Oregon. Entering service in 1976 after six years of construction, it was taken offline in 1992 following several years of public protests and, eventually, destroyed via a controlled implosion in 2006. Its reactor and associated equipment were encased in concrete foam and floated down the Columbia River by barge to Washington’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where they were entombed in a 45 ft deep gravel bunker.

While the plant operated, however, it utilized a Westinghouse Pressurized Water Reactor that drove a General Electric electrical generator to an installed capacity of 1130 MW. Owned and operated by Portland General Electric, the plant’s sole reactor generated approximately 12% of the electricity produced throughout Oregon. When decommissioned, the reactor had only been in service for sixteen years and was licensed to operate until 2011.

The plant was the subject of physical protests shortly after commissioning. In 1977, 96 protestors were arrested, though later acquitted, for criminal trespass of the plant’s property. The following year saw more protests that resulted in the arrests of 280. 1978 also saw the plant temporarily closed to allow for modifications intended to compensate for a fault line that had recently been discovered near its site.

In 1980, and again in 1986, 1990, and 1992, ballot measures were introduced in Oregon to ban the further development of nuclear power plants in the state until a federal nuclear waste depository was selected. Each measure was defeated by popular referendum; however, Portland General Electric decided to close the plant before the expiration of its license due to the cost associated with defeating these continuous ballot initiatives. Indeed, it had to spend $4.5 million to defeat a 1992 referendum that called for the immediate closure of Trojan.

Shortly after succeeding, however, a leak in the steam generator tube was discovered and PGE decided to initiate decommissioning ahead of schedule. This process began in 1993, with spent fuel being removed to steel storage casks from the plant’s spent fuel pools in 2003. Following the 2005 transfer of the reactor vessel, the remaining cooling tower and some facilities were demolished between 2006 and 2008. Today a few warehouses and an underground complex remain at the site, as well as a privately-owned helipad.

Though the facilities that house the Trojan plant are no longer standing, workers and nearby residents may still be suffering the ill effects of a substance they might not expect to be present – asbestos.  Many power plants built around the same time as Trojan made extensive use of asbestos in walls, ceilings, insulation, and protective coverings for machinery.  Though it kept the facilities safe from extreme temperatures, it exposed workers to a risk of serious respiratory disease.