Owner says Three Mile Island plant to shut down in 2019

Exelon Corp. the owner of Three Mile Island site of the United States' worst commercial nuclear power accident said Monday that it will shut down the plant in 2019 without a financial rescue from Pennsylvania

With the rapid growth of natural gas power in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, closing Three Mile Island would have little or no impact on electricity bills, analysts say. It has not said how much it wants.

The Pennsylvania generating station will shutter on or around September 30, 2019 "absent needed policy reforms" from the state, Exelon Corp.

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

The plant, along with other nuclear power installations around the USA, has struggled to compete in an electricity market booming with low-cost gas.

Exelon still hopes to stave off the closure if Pennsylvania amends its Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS), or establishes a zero-emissions credit program along the lines of IL and NY.

Tuesday's announcement highlights the challenges to the nuclear power industry - which "faces slowing demand for electricity, and competition from cheaper natural gas and renewables", as StateImpact Pennyslvania's Marie Cusick has reported. Exelon employs 675 people at the plant.

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.

The control room seen at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. The site has struggled to compete in an electricity market booming with inexpensive gas
Three Mile Island plant to shut down in 2019, owner says

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.

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. PSEG of New Jersey owns all or parts of four nuclear plants, but it has said it will not operate long-term money losers.

For decades, the Three Mile Island nuclear plant has stood as a symbol of nuclear energy's promise and peril. Though there's no indication the release of radiation caused any health issues among either employees or the general public, the incident catalyzed a rash of reforms, including stricter federal oversight of nuclear power plants.

The damaged reactor has been mothballed, but the other reactor is still in use.

"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", Crane said. They also note that nuclear is a carbon-free energy source, something that can't be said of natural gas or coal.

The low cost of electricity is being attributed to natural gas extraction from shale formations such as Pennsylvania's Marcellus region. Exelon said TMI provides more than $1 million in state property taxes and more than $300,000 in local community giving each year.

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