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Three Mile Island Plant May Close in 2019
Exelon Corporation announced May 30 that it will " prematurely retire" its Three Mile Island Generating Station on or about September 30, 2019, "absent needed policy reforms," in the company's words. The company's announcement said its officials "met with employees and informed community leaders, and pledged continued open dialogue as they prepare for this transition."
Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1 is located in Middletown, Pa., about 10 miles southeast of Harrisburg. It is operated by Exelon Generation Co., LLC and received its original operating license in April 1974 and a renewed license in October 2009. The nuclear power plant is best known as the site of the most serious nuclear accident in U.S. history, when equipment malfunctions, design-related problems, and worker errors cause a partial meltdown of Three Mile Island Unit 2's reactor core on March 28, 1979. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has described it as the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plants' operating history, "although its small radioactive releases had no detectable health effects on plant workers or the public. Its aftermath brought about sweeping changes involving emergency response planning, reactor operator training, human factors engineering, radiation protection, and many other areas of nuclear power plant operations," according to the agency, and "also caused the NRC to tighten and heighten its regulatory oversight. All of these changes significantly enhanced U.S. reactor safety."
Exelon Corporation's announcement said it is taking these "first steps" to shut down the plant, even as the company explained what kind of relief it needs to keep the plant in operation:
- Informing key stakeholders, which will include sending PJM a deactivation notice and making permanent shutdown notifications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission within 30 days
- Immediately taking one-time charges of $65-110 million for 2017 and accelerating approximately $1.0-1.1 billion in depreciation and amortization through the announced shutdown date
- Terminating capital investment projects required for long-term operation of TMI
- Canceling 2019 fuel purchases and outage planning, impacting about 1,500 outage workers
"Today is a difficult 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's president and CEO. "Like New York and Illinois before it, the Commonwealth has an opportunity to take a leadership role by implementing a policy solution to preserve its nuclear energy facilities and the clean, reliable energy and good-paying jobs they provide. We are committed to working with all stakeholders to secure Pennsylvania's energy future and will do all we can to support the community, the employees and their families during this difficult period."
The announcement said that, "Absent policy reforms, the loss of Pennsylvania nuclear plants would increase air pollution, compromise the resiliency of the electric grid, raise energy prices for consumers, eliminate thousands of good-paying local jobs and weaken the state's economy. Despite producing 93 percent of the Commonwealth's emissions-free electricity and avoiding 37 million tons of carbon emissions — the equivalent of keeping 10 million cars off the road every year — nuclear power is not included in the state's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS). Yet 16 clean power sources including solar, wind and hydro energy are supported by this state energy policy.
"Amending the AEPS is one of many potential solutions to preserve Pennsylvania's nuclear plants. Other options include establishing a zero emissions credit program, similar to the approach being implemented in Illinois and New York. Exelon is committed to working with its stakeholders to find the best solution for Pennsylvania — one that will maintain nuclear energy's $2 billion annual contribution to the state's economy and its approximately 16,000 direct and indirect Pennsylvania jobs."
The plan directly employs 675 workers and contracts another 1,500 local union workers for refueling outages. The announcement said "Exelon's highly trained employees will continue to operate the plant at world-class levels of excellence, with staff transitions expected within six months of the plant's final shut down.