Trojan Nuclear Power

Peter Russo
March 8, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2017


Fig. 1: Cooling tower of Trojan nuclear power plant, just before its demolition in 2016. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, shown in Fig. 1, is a decommissioned and demolished nuclear power plant that operated in Columbia County, Oregon. It functioned on the banks of the Columbia River starting in 1976 where it was plagued by protests, closure proposals, and design/mechanical failures for over 16 years. [1] Rupture of the steam tubes in 1992 forced Portland General Electric to close the plant permanently, cutting short the operation license. [2,3] At the time, the single 1130-megawatt unit at Trojan was the largest that had ever been built, and represented more than 12% of the electricity generation capacity of the state of Oregon. [2] To this day, it remains the only commercial nuclear power plant to have ever operated in the state.

Commission and Construction

Portland General Electric (PGE), the majority owner, began serious planning for Trojan Nuclear Power Plant in 1967 after being convinced by the Atomic Energy Commission that nuclear power would be too cheap to meter. [2] A site was chosen about 40 miles northwest of Portland that was owned by the Trojan Powder Company, giving the power plant its name. [2] Construction began in 1970 and already Trojan faced the intrinsic difficulties of building a nuclear power plant at that time; a lack of reactor standardization made future maintenance and repair problematic. [1,2] In 1971 PGE received a cite certificate from the state's Nuclear and Thermal energy Council and construction was critically achieved on December 15, 1975; grid connection followed on December 23, 1975. [2] During construction PGE faced considerable opposition from environmentalist groups and protestors due to considerably high construction costs ($450 million) and the nation-wide anti-nuclear movement that was also finding traction in Oregon. [1,2] Despite this, Trojan began commercial operation on May 20, 1976 with a generating capacity of 1130 megawatts.

Issues and Decommission

A year after construction finished, Trojan was found to have been compromised during construction as the plant's control building was missing crucial reinforcement rods. [1] It was then shut down for almost nine months while the modifications were made to bring the building up to federal earthquake standards. [2] In August of 1977, the nation's first occupation of a nuclear power plant took place at Trojan by the Trojan Decommissioning Alliance and 82 demonstrators were arrested. Although this did not result in the plant's decommission, it drew negative attention toward Trojan accompanied by heightened levels of opposition. [2] The most persistent of Trojan's critics was Lloyd Marbet of the group, Forelaws on Board, who bombarded the power plant with lawsuits and ballot initiatives for almost 20 years in attempt to end operation and to prevent PGE from passing construction costs to ratepayers. [2] In 1992 Marbet helped sponsor yet another ballot measure that was aimed at the plant's shut down which PGE fought with one of Oregon's most expensive political campaigns ($5 million). Even though the efforts to shut down Trojan were routinely defeated, less than one month after the last attempt in 1992 a leak was discovered in one of the steam generator tubes. This forced PGE to close down the plant once again for repairs, never for it to reopen. [3] In January 1993, PGE began to decommission the plant after having to deal with so much maintenance and protest, cutting short the plant's expected life.


The process to decommission and deconstruct the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant took over ten years, ending in the implosion of its cooling tower. [1,2] There has never since been another nuclear power plant in the state, as voters passed a ballot that prohibits the licensing of new one without their consent. [3] Since then, the Trojan site has been released for unrestricted use, and the state has chosen to focus more of their energy efforts on wind power farms and their already abundant hydroelectric dams.

© Peter Russo. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] S. M. Quennoz, "Trojan Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Plan and License Termination Plan (PGE- 1078)," Portland General Electric Company, 6 Mar 01.

[2] W. Nichols, "The Trojan War," The American Scholar 76, No. 4, 45 (Autumn 2007).

[3] "NRC Ends License for Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, Releases Site for Unrestricted Use, NRC News. No. 05-082, 23 May 05.