Owner says Three Mile Island plant to shut down in 2019

Marcus Newton
May 31, 2017

NY and IL adopted rules in 2016 to provide payments to nuclear reactors to keep the units in service to help meet state carbon reduction goals and keep the jobs, taxes and fuel diversification the plants provide.

Three Mile Island suffered a partial meltdown in 1979, which released "significant" radiation into the air and sparked mass chaos, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

The plant, along with other nuclear power installations around the US, has struggled to compete in an electricity market booming with cheap gas.

So-called nuclear bailouts have thus far won approval in IL and NY.

TMI says it directly employs 675 workers and contracts another 1,500 local union workers for refueling outages.

Other power generators that would benefit if the reactors shut down, however, have challenged NY and Illinois' nuclear payments in federal court, arguing the rules unfairly subsidize one fuel source in a federally administered competitive market and will boost ratepayer costs.

In December, Illinois approved $235 million a year for Exelon to prop up nuclear plants in the Quad Cities and Clinton, six months after the company threatened to shut them down.

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FirstEnergy 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. PSEG of New Jersey, which owns all or parts of four nuclear plants, has said it won't operate ones that are long-term money losers.

Regardless, the accident had a powerful effect, undermining support for nuclear power.

Exelon will record one-time costs of as much as $110 million in the second quarter to retire the plant before its license expires in 2034, according to the filing.

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", Exelon CEO Chris Crane 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. Exelon has indicated it will consider closing the other plant, Quad Cities, if it does not begin to receive subsidies passed in IL a year ago.

Despite producing 93 percent of the state'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, Crane said.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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