Marble Hill Nuclear Power Plant

Marble Hill Nuclear Power Plant

Marble Hill Nuclear Power Plant is a now-demolished, never-completed power generating facility in Marble Hill, Indiana. All work stopped in 1984 after $2.7 billion had been expended.






History

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, the $700 million power plant was projected to be the largest capital project in the state’s history. It would employ 250. 7

PSI proposed a 987-acre 9 nuclear facility with twin pressurized 1130 MWe Westinghouse light water reactors. 2 10 Both of the units would use two pressurized water reactors to produce up to 3,425 MW 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% diverted to the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) and the remaining 15% by other entities such as the Kentucky-Indiana Municipal Power Association, the City of Richmond, Indiana, East Kentucky Power Cooperative and the Wabash Valley Power Association. 10

A maximum of 69 CFS of cooling water would be withdrawn from the Ohio River, of which 9 CFS would be returned via a pipeline with the dissolved solids concentration increased by a factor of six. 9 About 60 CFS would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

Approximately 115 miles of transmission lines would cross 3,475 acres of land, with the bases of the transmission towers using just 85 of those acres. The power plant would be served by a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad spur. 9

The proposed construction and start-up cost of Marble Hill ranged from $700 million to $1.4 billion, 1 $1.8 billion 7 and $4.3 billion. 8 Construction was set to begin in July 1976, with Unit 1 starting up in January 1982 followed by Unit 2 in January 1984. 10 A limited work authorization order was issued in December 1976. Due to setbacks and delays, Unit 1 would become operational in late 1986 followed by Unit 2 in 1987. 8

Construction on Marble Hill began in August 19771 7 At its peak, the facility employed 8,000 workers.

Controversy

Skeptics of the power plant accused PSI of forging numbers for the actual construction costs and debated that the actual prices 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 Environmental Statement prepared by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the calculated dose of radiation for the year 2000 for people living 50 miles from Marble Hill would be ten man-rems per year, much lower than the 170,000 man-rems per year that the general population received from natural background radiation. 9

There were numerous inconsistencies and flaws in construction. 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 mistakes that were revealed in the affidavit involved the concrete pouring in the walls of the containment buildings that led to the concrete honeycombing.

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 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.”

Termination

As a result of significant cost overruns associated with construction complications, work at Marble Hill ceased on January 10, 1984. 3 Governor Robert Orr stated that the completion of the facility might cause PSI enter into bankruptcy and cause substantial increases in state electric rates.

Over $2.8 billion had been spent at Marble Hill at the time of its closure, 3 7 and $4 billion was required to complete the project. 7 Over 3,500 construction workers were laid off, which spiked the county’s unemployment rate to 24.8%. 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 pay off Marble Hill’s $1.65 billion debt. 7 By 1987, only 50 people were employed, tasked with keeping the facility secure.

In November 1998, Marble Hill was sold to an agricultural equipment and lumber business.3 The land remained unused and was sold to a Michigan company in 2005.

The turbine structure was demolished in March 2007. 3 The initial implosion, using traditional dynamite, failed to budge the large structure. A second demolition effort collapsed the five-story building.

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 filed for a rate increase in 1986 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 declared that electric utilities could not charge customers for a power plant that was never operational.

In 1994, six attorneys filed a settlement agreement with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, seeking $14.25 million in 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, 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.


Gallery

Submitted by Mark Gish






Further Reading


Sources

[su_spoiler title=”Sources” icon=”caret”]

  1. Blair, John. “Return to Marble Hill: Indiana’s rusting nuke.” Bloomington Alternative, July 27, 2003. Sept. 27, 2005 Article.
  2. “Marble Hill: Southern Indiana’s Nuclear Power Plant.” March 24, 2007 Article.
  3. Dick, Kaukas. “Building razed at Marble Hill power plant site.” Courier-Journal (Louisville), March 18, 2005. March 28, 2007. Print.
  4. “U.S. government sues Wabash Valley Power over Marble Hill debt.” Courier-Journal (Louisville) 16 Jan. 1988. 18 Dec. 2009. Print.
  5. Kusmer, Ken. “Marble Hill lawyers reject new settlement, vow to appeal again.” Courier-Journal (Louisville) 9 Nov. 1996. 18 Dec. 2009. Print.
  6. Egerton, Judith. “Madison is recovering from its tumble down Marble Hill.” Courier-Journal (Louisville) 4 Sept. 1986. 21 Dec. 2009: B. Print.
  7. Gardner, Bruce. “Elements reclaiming abandoned Marble Hill plant.” Indiana Weekly 11-12 Feb. 1987, East ed.: B1. Print.
  8. Marble Hill, on the move. N.p.: Public Service Indiana, n.d. N. pag. Print.
  9. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “Summary and Conclusions.” Draft Environmental Statement related to construction of Marble Hill Nuclear Generating Station Units 1 and 2. N.p.: Public Service Indiana, March 1976. Print.
  10. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “The proposed project.” Draft Environmental Statement related to construction of Marble Hill Nuclear Generating Station Units 1 and 2. N.p.: Public Service Indiana, March 1976. Print.
  11. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “Status of the project .” Draft Environmental Statement related to construction of Marble Hill Nuclear Generating Station Units 1 and 2. N.p.: Public Service Indiana, March 1976. Print.

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20 Comments

  1. I worked at marble hill in 1983. I ran the turbine building overhead crane and the round crane in containment 1. I was in crane when the 4 steam generators and reactor was set. Round overhead crane was big(225 Ton?) and it rumbled when it moved.The steam generators I believe came in on trailer with 144 tires. The crane was barely tall enough to get off truck and stand up. That was my first big time construction job and was an eye opener for young man.

    1. Byron and Braidwood plants in Illinois are exact copies (sort of). I work on the cranes there turbine and polar cranes. Kinda weird seeing these pictures and then comparing it to a completed project.

  2. My father worked for Sargent and Lundy which was an engineering firm designing the plant. He spent most of his career working and reworking the designs and now I know why. He also had an early “forced retirement” in 1985 or 86, now I know why that happened too.

  3. I worked at the Sweetwater uranium mine from 1980-1983, for Union 76. We had a contract to supply uranium for this nuclear power plant. Our mill had a fire four days before we were to go online and we thought we would all get laid off. However the mill was rebuilt and we were able to meet the contract for PSI. Then 3 mile island and the whole industry went down the tubes. We had a breach of contract with PSI and the workers were laid off. I was laid off in 1983.

  4. I was at The Hill working for Newburg when the shutdown started. 10-31-1983 was when all “travellers” (Union Pipefitters from outside of Local 157) were laid off. Halloween 1983, I have fond memories of my time there!

  5. I’ve always wondered: to where were the power lines being built from the site? I remember when I was a kid, my parents and I drove down near there, and saw the 765 kv guyed-V towers still standing, with no wires strung on them. (Apparently years later they took them down to replace 765 kv towers on the Jefferson-Greentown line, owned by AEP, that were destroyed by an ice storm). The best I can see is that at least one 765 line was heading towards the Columbus 345 substation. Was this the only line? Anybody know the answer to this?

  6. I worked at Marble Hill in 1987 an 88. I was part of the demolition crew with a company called Hebco. We were there to basically tear it down and separate the metals. The superintendent of the crew was a young hot shot from New York. I was friends with a gal named Debbie Campbell and she worked with PSI.

  7. I worked for PSI between 1978 and 1979, fresh out of school. By 1978, you could see that every cent in the company was being absorbed by Marble Hill. I believe at the time all of PSI had a net worth of about $750 million. Jobs outside of the construction jobs were going unfilled in the offices, promotions ground to a halt – the writing was on the wall – not the place to be so early in your career. 4/1/14 would have been my 38th anniversary. Glad I missed the remainder of the slow death of a decent company. Hugh Barker was in way over his head – very naive – he should have seen the signs when I did in 1978. Going 6 more years on that project was criminal.

  8. Is it still there? I am a student who is working on thesis project and I chose cooling tower structures in general to adaptively reuse it. I have a plan to flight to there and if I want to visit there, formal process for the visit is required? Is it possible to take photos inside of the cooling tower? I really want to contact someone who is in charge of this site. sorry for the bunch of questions.

  9. I am what you would call an “urban explorer” and im wondering this place is still even up and if it is, can i gain easy access to it? Do they do tours? Are there any guards/authority that i can contact to gain access?

    1. I visited it recently, much is demolished but things like the cooling towers still remain and it is still cool to check out. Better do it before it is ALL gone.

      1. would I be able to ask you some questions about it? Im an urbexer from Ky and am wanting to check this out sometime this week, it looks amazing.

  10. I worked there for Public Service Indiana. I transfered there in March 1980 from a coal fired power plant. This is an extreme shame to see this almost nuclear plant demolished. It is amazing how the company told us in October 1983 that they were committed to completing the plant and then January 1984 back after the holidays they tell us to pack our belongings and get out. The project shutdown. So much money invested and the documentation in the 70's stating the need for more electric power. Indiana seems to have gotten along pretty well with out the extra power that that plant was going to produce. The plant would have produced approximately 1200 Mega Watts of power per unit.

  11. Thanks for sharing your insights Josh, and I do too wish that I was able to visit the location at a time when it was more intact. It is amazing that nature will always reclaim everything, no matter how durable or how structurally sound a location is. Case in point: Chernobyl. Despite the effects of radiation fallout, Chernobyl is being reclaimed by nature, and there is an abundance of wildlife in an area that is so devoid of humans or any other interaction.

    And they exist peacefully.

  12. My father was a foreman on the Marble Hill project in the early 80's. I have heard stories about the facility my entire life, and despite living in the area most of the last 30 years, I had not ever visited the site. That is until yesterday. On a lark, I decided to swing by the facility to see it for myself. It is currently under demolition, with the the Fuel Handling building and Containment #2 already demolished. Containment #1 still stands, but as a guard told me, not for much longer. The cooling facilities also still stand, and probably will for quite some time due to their size, as do the underground water ways that underpin the structures.

    Despite being a grown man in his thirties, I have to say that I found the whole site somewhat creepy. Perhaps that is a silly statement to make; there are generally no people loitering about on a demolition site on a Sunday, but it was the distinctly Chernobyl-esque setting that was so striking. The wind rustling through the debris, as well as the fan blades in the cooling buildings was very unsettling. It's easy to see why some people claim it is haunted. It really brought to mind the "World Without Us" shows on the Discovery Channel about how long it would take nature to reclaim human settlements. There were so many trees and other plant life springing up through the cement, as well as deer and other animals running amok. It was interesting to see firsthand how nature marches forward, oblivious to our designs. The other remaining structures present a solemn testament to shifting perspectives on what is valuable and worth investing money and resources in. My father, and many other men and women, spent years working on the facility, and essentially it was all for nothing. So much money, resources, and effort, wasted.

    I realize that it is important to finally put an end to the project, and reclaim the land for other uses, but also, I am sad to see it knocked down. I know that the site presents physical (fortunately not nuclear) hazards, but in a way I wish they would leave it alone and allow nature to take her course. I really do wish that I had taken the time to visit the place years ago and see it "intact".

    1. My Daddy worked there, I think the company he worked for sub-contracted for the construction company, or something like that. Dad was a metal worker by trade. I was very little at the time, (would have been about 4 when the project was abandoned) but he later told us that he, and all the welders, had to wear some kind of backpack devices that kept their welding rods at a precise temperature. And how these devices were inspected regularly, and if it was found that the battery haf died or the device was otherwise malfunctioning, all the rods had to be scrapped, and the worker could get into big trouble. How there were a lot of strict rules like that, because, of course, the facility had to be built for strength and safety. (As an aside, whatever problems and allegations there might have been, the fact that the building demolished in 2007 survived the initial blast intact, even after sitting there for 23 years abandoned to the elements, shows that they at least did SOMETHING right.) Anyway, I always found Kentuckiana’s brush with nuclear power fascinating, and was always kinda proud my Dad had a small part in it. I’ll have to ask him to tell me his stories again, now that I’m an adult.

      1. What a fascinating story Lindsey! I keep hoping that more people took pictures of the construction because this is something that should be shared: the hard work and dedication of so many, even if it resulted in a project that was ultimately scrapped and demolished.

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