Three Mile Island nuclear plant to close in 2019

By Allen Cone  |  May 30, 2017 at 12:18 PM
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May 30 (UPI) -- The Three Mile Island atomic power plant -- site of the worst U.S. commercial nuclear accident in 1979 -- will cease operations in 2019, owner Exelon Corp. announced Tuesday.

The plant, based in Middletown, Pa., and about 90 miles west of Philadelphia, has lost $300 million over the past five years because of the decline in energy prices, Chicago-based Exelon said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The plant, which opened in 1974 and has one remaining reactor, will close around Sept. 30, 2019.

"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 president and CEO, said in a statement.

Nuclear and fossil-fueled plants are competing with cheap natural gas and rising output of wind and solar power.

Three Mile Island doesn't have anywhere to sell its electricity after September. The plant has failed to win capacity payments in this year's auction -- the third consecutive year it's happened. The generator also hasn't won government subsidies or market reforms, the company said.

"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," Crane said.

"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 company will record one-time costs of as much as $110 million in the second quarter to retire the plant. Also, charges up to $25 million a year may be recorded in 2018 and 2019.

The station pays more than $1 million in state property taxes.

Other nuclear plants nationwide may close.

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

Toshiba's Westinghouse division, filed for bankruptcy protection in March, placing the fate of two under-construction nuclear plants in jeopardy.

On March 28, 1979, Three Mile Island's Unit 2 partially melted down. Although its small radioactive releases had no detectable health effects on plant workers or the public, it was the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

An estimated 140,000 people were evacuated and cleanup lasted until the 1990s. The reactor was permanently shut down and hazardous materials were removed off site. The second reactor remains in use.

The NRC also tightened and heightened its regulatory oversight following the partial meltdown.

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