The Controversy Surrounding the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant

Will Matthiessen
March 21, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: Image of the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, located in Columbia County, Oregon. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The Trojan Nuclear Power Plant was the first and only nuclear power plant in the state of Oregon, and it began generating power in March of 1976 (Fig. 1). It was located in Columbia County, about 40 miles northwest of Portland, along the Columbia River. [1] The plant cost roughly $450 million to construct and when it was running efficiently it produced commercial power at a capacity of 1,300 megawatts. [1] Although the plant was a major energy provider for the state, concerned citizens had been attempting to prohibit Portland General Electric (PGE) from running a nuclear power plant since they first received notice of the plan in 1968. [2] PGE faced protests and unhappy citizens throughout the plant's existence. In 1993 the plant was shut down due to a combination of the general public unhappiness and cracks developing in the steam generator tubes. [1] Thus, the decommission process began and the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant's days of operation were over.

Construction and the Issues that Followed

Portland General Electric began exploring the idea of creating a nuclear power plant in the state of Oregon as early as 1958. It wasn't until 1967 that legitimate planning began and the property was chosen for construction, a site owned by the Trojan Powder Company right along the Columbia River. [3] Official Construction began in 1968. The plant was up and running by the spring of 1976. Just one year later. in 1977, it was discovered that there were issues regarding the construction of the plant. The supporting walls in the control building were missing crucial stabilizing rods, which lead to a complete shutdown of the plant for 8 months for repair. [1] After the hiccup in 1977, the plant ran relatively smoothly for a little over seven years until about 1984, when it ran into some issues with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The plants NRC ratings were significantly worse than they had been in any of the previous years, and the ratings remained that way until about 1989, when PGE brought in a completely new management team. [1] The following year in 1990 ratings were back up - despite the fact that the NRC has placed a steep fine of $280,000 on the plant for an issue regarding the emergency cooling system. Then on January 27, 1993 PGE notified the Oregon Department of Energy and the NRC that it was officially closing the Trojan Plant. [1,3]

Public Pushback

The people of Oregon were very wary of the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant from the time they first learned about it, due to uncertainty surrounding the environmental repercussions. In May of 1970, a coalition of Oregonians produced an initiative for the ballot to block the plant's ability to produce power, but it failed. As the plant began its operation, concerned community members put together an alliance known as the Trojan Decommissioning Alliance (TDA), and they began to actively protest the existence of the plant. Two activists, Nina Bell and Norman Solomon, organized and led the first official occupation of the plant. Soon more joined in on protests, and there were also more protests as a whole. Betwee 1978 and early 1982, protests continued, resulting in the police arresting over 360 activists. [2] In the late 1980s, a man named Lloyd Marbet developed a group called the Forelaws on Board which repeatedly proposed initiatives in hopes of terminating the operation of the plant. PGE ended up spending roughly 4.5 million dollars in counter-campaigns. It was able to fight off the initiatives drawn up by the "Forelaws on Board" up until the closure in 1993. Ironically, PGE had fought off a strong initiative in August of 1992, but days later discovered the tube cracking that led to the closing of the plant. The public finally received what it had been asking for. [2,4]

Next Steps

The decommissioning process began in 1993 and continued for almost a decade. In 2001, the massive reactor was barged up the Columbia River to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington, where it was buried 45 feet underground and covered with six inches of gravel. [3] In 2003, PGE transferred all of Trojan's 791 spent nuclear fuel assemblies to dry casks, which now sit upright on a concrete pad within Trojan's protected area. [3] Lastly, in 2006, the 500 foot tall cooling tower was imploded, and the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, Oregon's first and only of its kind, was officially gone. [4]

© Will Matthiessen. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. 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] "Trojan Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Plan and License Termination Plan. Revision 9," Portland General Electric Company, 6 Mar 01.

[2] "Order No. 95-322, in the Matter of the Revised Tariff Schedules for Electric Service in Oregon," Public Utilities Commission of Oregon, 29 Mar 95.

[3] "Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, Oregon," TranSystems, 1 Oct 10.

[4] P. Russo, "Trojan Nuclear Power," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2017.