Owner says Three Mile Island plant to shut down in 2019

Owner says Three Mile Island plant to shut down in 2019

The beleaguered power plant in Middletown, Pa., has faced losses for the past five years as a result of low natural gas prices and the boom of the Northeast's Marcellus Shale reservoir, according to its owner, Exelon Corp.

Only eight years ago, TMI had successfully petitioned the federal government to extend its operating license so the plant could continue running through 2034.

Three Mile Island, so-named for the island on Pennsylvania's Susquehanna River where it's located, suffered a partial meltdown March 28, 1979.

The once-lauded energy source has declined in popularity amidst safety concerns and technology leaps in other sectors that have dropped the cost of other energy sources.

Three Mile Island recently failed in an auction to sell its power into a regional grid and has been struggling to compete with low natural gas prices for years.

Advocates point out that money, land, and resources have already been invested in nuclear power, and that it also provides jobs for which highly specific training is required.

At the same time, he said the Sierra Club would be concerned in the unlikely event that issues surrounding TMI's possible retirement triggers the state's other nuclear plants to close because that would mean the state's reliance on natural gas and coal to provide electricity would increase - and it definitely doesn't want that. Entergy Corp.in December announced plans to close its Palisades plant in MI. 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.

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The short-term nature of deregulated electricity markets have left other U.S. nuclear power plants at risk of premature closure for economic reasons, despite their long-term future and their potential contribution to achieving greenhouse gas emissions targets.

It's unclear whether Exelon actually intends to close Three Mile Island, or if its announcement is designed as something of a threat to force the state of Pennsylvania to deliver an operating subsidy.

Exelon president and CEO Chris Crane said: "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 reliable every day, but also for their families, the communities and customers who depend on this plant to produce clean energy and support local jobs". What it would involve is changing the state's 2004 alternative energy portfolio standards law to give nuclear preferential treatment and premium payments that are now extended to renewable forms of energy, such as wind and solar.

In addition, Exelon said it would terminate capital investment projects to keep the plant open beyond September 2019.

Or, the legislature could give nuclear power credits for not producing climate-changing pollution, Exelon said, pointing out that approach has been taken recently by legislators in IL and regulators in NY.

This story has been corrected to show the day of the Three Mile Island announcement was Tuesday, not Monday. Starting at 4 a.m. that day in March 1979, multiple failures occurred to produce what still stands as the nation's worst commercial nuclear accident.

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