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Kewaunee Nuclear Plant Shuts Down

 Kewaunee Power Station
Lenka Reznicek, via Flickr

Less than 24 hours ago, the Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin became the first nuclear power plant in this country to be shut down since the late 1990s.

Virginia-based Dominion Resources decided to stop producing power at the plant when the utilities which bought the power elected not to renew their contract with Dominion.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the plant could not could not compete with the lower prices of natural gas.

Kewaunee's History

Kewaunee Power Station – located along the Lake Michigan shoreline off Highway 42 - has been pumping out energy since 1974. Recently Dominion, which bought the station in 2005, attempted and failed to sell off the operation.

Plant spokesperson Mark Kanz says Kewaunee was one of the best run nuclear power plants in the country. After September 11, 2001 security was significantly amped up. The plant employed more than 600 workers.

Decommissioning Process

Ahead of the shutdown, Kanz explained how the slow decommissioning process actually happens.

Skilled teams shut down the machines, signaling a slow – closely monitored - cool down process. Spent fuel could remain hot for a decade. Ultimately the spent fuel will be carefully transferred to an onsite dry storage facility, Kanz says.

Kanz estimates the complete decommissioning process could stretch over 60 years, when the land occupied by the plant will become a green field site.

All of the fuel used over the plant’s lifetime will remain on site. Kanz says, as long as that is the case, there will be people guarding it.

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.