Owner says Three Mile Island plant to shut down in 2019


Three Mile Island has been in the most financially precarious position, but other plant operators - including Beaver Valley nuclear power station's owner FirstEnergy Corp. - have signaled plans to exit the market, by choice or economic pressure, unless the state intervenes. So-called nuclear bailouts have won approval in IL and NY but the potential for higher utility bills in Pennsylvania is drawing pushback from energy companies, manufacturers and consumer advocates.

The natural gas boom has slashed electricity prices, hurting nuclear power.

Three Mile Island, site of a 1979 partial meltdown that was the worst nuclear disaster in US history, generates almost all of Pennsylvania's carbon-free energy supply, Exelon officials said. 40 years after the accident, it looks like the nuclear plant may be shutting down.

No such announcement, however, has been made about nuclear generating station at Limerick. Exelon cited the energy marketplace in Pennsylvania that does not allow nuclear power to compete adequately as part of the reason for the plant's closure. "In the Philadelphia area, we recognize and welcome the significant economic boost refueling outages provide to the community, both in the form of wages and increased economic activity for local businesses". Decommissioning the plant could take years.

In late March 1979, five years after going into operation, the plant experienced a meltdown in one of its two units, TMI-2.

Grove, the chairman of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 777, is one of 675 employees who will be out of a job if the nuclear power plant closes in 2019.

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"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, said in a statement. Now, Exelon has chose to sell off the plant that was the site of the worst nuclear melt down in US history. It would prefer the state move toward an energy policy that rapidly ramps up wind, solar and other clean, renewable energy sources and efficiencies and phases out "dirty stuff including fossil fuels and nuclear".

A handful of nuclear power plants have shut down in recent years, a lot of them forced out of service by intense competition from low-priced, reliable natural gas-fired power plants as well as solar and wind farms, which get federal subsidies.

While nuclear power doesn't generate greenhouse gases, renewable energy advocates say they don't consider it "clean" and argue subsidies earmarked for renewable power should be reserved for newer, less proven electricity sources.

More recently, it failed in an auction to sell power into the regional grid.

"It's a single unit facility, so you don't have the ability to generate as much electricity and therefore as much revenue, and your cost are what they are", Murphy said.

Pennsylvania is home to nine nuclear power reactors that produce 93% of its carbon-free electricity, avoiding 37 million tonnes of carbon emissions.