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The Associated Press July 7, 2011, 2:24PM ET

Locals want oldest US nuclear plant to stay open

People who live near the nation's oldest nuclear power plant want it to stay open as long as possible.

Supporters of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township, N.J., dominated a hearing Thursday on the key aspect of a deal under which the plant will close in 2019, 10 years earlier than planned.

New Jersey's Environmental Protection Department proposes to let it operate for the next nine years without building cooling towers. The cooling towers would reduce damage to aquatic life and the fragile Barnegat Bay. The plant operator says they're too costly to build.

Environmentalists fear the plan could allow Oyster Creek to operate indefinitely if the owners change their minds and scrap an agreement to shut it down early. The plant's owner says it won't.

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