Owner says Three Mile Island plant to shut down in 2019

Posted May 31, 2017

The owner of Three Mile Island, site of the worst commercial nuclear power accident in U.S. history, will shut down the plant in 2019 unless it receives a financial rescue from the Pennsylvania state government.

"Today is a hard day, not just for the 675 talented men and women who have dedicated themselves to operating Three Mile Island safely and reliably every day, but also for their families, the communities and customers who depend on this plant to produce clean energy and support local jobs", said Chris Crane, Exelon president and CEO, in a statement.

Nuclear plants have closed ahead of their licenses expiring in California, Florida, Nebraska, Vermont and Wisconsin, with more set to be decommissioned in the next several years.

Exelon and other nuclear power plant owners have made the pitch that zero-carbon nuclear plants are better suited than natural gas or coal to fight climate change.

"Nuclear fuel is still cheaper than natural gas fuel, but nuclear power plants have much higher maintenance costs", said Jaimin Patel, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence.

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FirstEnergy Corp. has said it could decide next year to sell or close its three nuclear plants - Davis-Besse and Perry in OH and Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania.

Exelon Corporation today said it will prematurely retire its Three Mile Island Generating Station on or about September 30, 2019, absent needed policy reforms.

In 1979, the plant experienced the partial meltdown of one of its two reactors.

Scientists have come to no firm conclusion about the health effects or the amount of radiation released, though government scientists have said the maximum individual dosage was not enough to cause health problems.

The plant's name has been synonymous with public fears over the risks associated with nuclear power since the plant suffered a partial meltdown in 1979, sparking sweeping new rules for handling emergencies at nuclear sites. No nuclear plant that was proposed after the accident has been successfully completed and put into operation in the U.S.

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And its future seems to hang on whether or not Pennsylvania lawmakers enact policies favorable to the nuclear industry, something officials with Illinois-based Exelon favor, but which have already generated opposition among other players in the energy industry.

"Today is a hard day, not just for the 675 talented men and women who have dedicated themselves to operating Three Mile Island safely and reliably every day, but also for their families, the communities and customers who depend on this plant to produce clean energy and support local jobs", Chris Crane, Exelon president and CEO, said in a statement.

In the past decade, natural gas has been flooding the market from the Northeast's Marcellus Shale formation, the nation's most prolific gas field. They also note that nuclear is a carbon-free energy source, something that can't be said of natural gas or coal.

Pennsylvania is the nation's No. 2 nuclear power state after IL.

The plant near Harrisburg, Pa., hasn't been profitable for the past five years, according to owner Exelon Corp.

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