Marble Hill Nuclear Power Plant was a never-completed power generating facility in Marble Hill, Indiana. All work stopped in 1984 after $2.7 billion had been expended.5
In 1973, Public Service Indiana (PSI), now owned by Cinergy, proposed a nuclear power generating plant at Marble Hill. Located approximately 45 minutes north of Louisville, Kentucky and 30 minutes south of Madison, Indiana, the $700 million power plant was projected to be the largest capital project in the state’s history.1 It would employ 250.7
The proposed 987-acre 9 nuclear facility included twin pressurized 1130 MWe Westinghouse light water reactors.2 10 Both of the units would employ two pressurized water reactors to produce up to 3,425 MWth from each unit, and steam turbine generators would utilize waste heat to provide 2,360 MWe of total electrical power capacity.9 10
PSI would retain 65% capacity of the plant, with 20% of the capacity being delivered to the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) and the remaining 15% by other entities.10 Among those others requesting included Kentucky-Indiana Municipal Power Association, the City of Richmond, Indiana, East Kentucky Power Cooperative and the Wabash Valley Power Association.
A maximum of 69 CFS of cooling water was to be withdrawn from the Ohio River, of which 9 CFS would be returned via a pipeline with the dissolved solids concentration increased by a factor of six.9 About 60 CFS would be evaporated by mechanical-draft cooling towers.10 The average river flow in the Ohio was noted at 110,000 CFS.
Approximately 115 miles of transmission lines would be constructed, requiring 3,475 acres of land. The bases of the transmission towers would consume 85 of those acres. A railroad spur from the nearby Baltimore & Ohio Railroad would require 245 acres.9
The proposed construction and start-up cost of the facility ranged from $700 million to $1.4 billion,1 $1.8 billion 7 and $4.3 billion.8 Construction was scheduled to start in July 1976, with one unit to commence operation in January 1982, with the other to start up in January 1984.10 A limited work authorization order was issued in December 1976. Due to setbacks and delays, the first unit would begin operations in late 1986 with the other going online in 1987.8
Construction began in August 1977, and at its peak, Marble Hill employed 8,000 workers.1 7
Skeptics of the power plant accused PSI of forging numbers for the actual construction costs and debated that the actual costs were much higher.1 Others were afraid of potential nuclear radiation leaks, fears that were intensified after the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant leak in March 1979. In the disaster, entire systems failed that created immense pressure buildup inside the containment structures. After three agonizing days, the danger at Three Mile Island had passed, but not after contaminating the nearby ground and waterways, fueling only further opposition against any construction of a nuclear power plant.
In the Environmental Statement prepared by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the calculated dose of radiation for the year 2000 for people living fifty miles from Marble Hill would be 10 man-rems per year, much lower than the 170,000 man-rems per year that the general population received from background radiation.9
It was reported that there were numerous inconsistencies in construction in a May 8, 1979 newspaper article.1 Charles Cutshall, a former employee of Marble Hill’s general contractor, Gust K. Newburg, filed an affidavit that stated he and other Newberg employees were told to cover up and hide construction defects before inspectors could spot them. The defects that were revealed in the affidavit involved the concrete pouring in the walls of the containment buildings, and were later discovered in the walls of the containment structures where “honeycombs” were discovered. According to the affidavit, had radioactive gas breached the containment structure similar to the situation at Three Mile Island, residents within a 30-mile radius would be affected.
Construction was stopped on three separate occasions during the summer of 1979 to investigate and correct the growing number of reports of poor construction.1 PSI’s chairman, Hugh Barker, lashed out against the opposition in an employee magazine, “Watts Cookin.” In it, he claimed that “one is forced to ask what’s really behind the anti-nuclear movement? Who is fanning the flames of fear and irrational emotion?” He then attempted to answer his own question with, “Two British experts on Soviet propaganda accuse the Soviet Union of funding and manipulating anti-nuclear movements in the west…the radicals among the anti-nuclear forces, by whatever name, clearly have as their goal, the transformation of our democratic, free society.”
On January 10, 1984, as a result of major cost overruns associated with construction woes, work at Marble Hill ceased.3 Governor Robert Orr stated that the completion of the facility might cause PSI go enter into bankruptcy and cause large increases in electric rates.
Over $2.8 billion was spent at Marble Hill at the time of its closure.3 7 Another $4 billion was required to complete the project.7 Over 3,500 construction workers were laid off, and the county’s unemployment rate soared to 24.8% and remained at over 20% for several months.6 By June 1986, the rate had declined to 10.3%.
Many of the unfinished plant’s components, such as its generators and reactors, were sold to other power generating facilities in 1986.1 7 About $90 million was recovered to be paid towards the $1.65 billion debt incurred.7 By 1987, only 50 people worked on-site who were charged with the task of keeping the facility secure.
In November 1998, the Marble Hill property, still owned by PSI, was sold to an agricultural equipment and lumber business based out of Madison.3 Purchased by Debbie and Dean Ford, the land remained unused and was sold to a Michigan company in 2005.
In March 2007, the turbine building was demolished.3 The initial implosion, using traditional dynamite, failed to budge the mammoth structure. A second demolition effort collapsed the five-story building. The two containment buildings, however, remain standing.
Financing and Debt
On January 4, 1988, the federal government sued Wabash Valley Power Association and its 24-member rural-electric cooperatives over a $500 million debt stemming from Marble Hill.4 Filed in the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), the suit claimed that the REA lent Wabash Power $650 million towards the nuclear power plant.
After the power plant project was abandoned, Wabash Valley filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1985.4 The association then filed for a rate increase one year later to raise money to pay the REA debt, but that increase was denied by the Indiana Public Service Commission. Wabash Valley contended that it could not raise money to pay the debt because Indiana law and the state Supreme Court stated that electric utilities could not charge customers for a plant that was never operational.
In 1994, six attorneys filed a settlement agreement within the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, seeking $14.25 million fees, or 9.3% of the $150 million they won for PSI customers in two earlier court decisions.5 The commission set fees at $3.12 million, but the attorneys appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals, where it brought the case back to the utility commission.
The lead attorney, Mike Mullett, stated that they would return to the Court of Appeals to receive the full amount. Of the $14.25 million, 21%, or roughly $3 million, was to be placed into a trust fund for customers to contest future cases before the commission.5
Of the $3.1 million in fees, plus interest, that the court ordered PSI to pay after its May ruling, about $600,000 had been set aside for the trust fund. The remaining $2.5 million was split amongst the attorneys and clients.5
On November 8, 1996, a state regulatory panel ruled that the six attorneys should share $7.98 million for winning a $150 million refund to PSI customers for costs associated with the abandoned Marble Hill plant.5 The attorneys, who were seeking far more, appealed.[/stag_one_half] [stag_one_half_last]