Owner says Three Mile Island plant to shut down in 2019

Posted May 31, 2017

Nuclear energy makes a $2 billion annual contribution to the state's economy and supports about 16,000 direct and indirect Pennsylvania jobs, the release said.

The owner of Three Mile Island, site of the United States' worst commercial nuclear power accident, says it will shut down the plant in 2019 without a financial rescue from Pennsylvania. 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.

Around the USA, nuclear plants have been hammered by the natural gas boom.

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

Yet 16 clean power sources including solar, wind and hydro energy are supported by this state energy policy, Crane said.

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.

As a result, the construction of new plants declined in the 1980s and 1990s, according to the World Nuclear Association, an global group that promotes the use of nuclear power.

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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.

A federal inquiry found no deaths or injuries were caused by the accident, though it dented public confidence in nuclear energy for years.

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.

Built during a golden age for nuclear power, Three Mile Island's Unit 1 went online in 1974 and Unit 2 in 1978, coughing steam into the air above its sliver of land in the Susquehanna River, about 10 miles from Harrisburg.

"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. An increase in fracking has spurred the production of cheap natural gas, providing utilities with an attractive and readily available alternative to both nuclear and coal power.

In its closure announcement, Exelon pushed Pennsylvania legislators to integrate nuclear energy into the state's renewable portfolio standard or pass a zero emissions credit (ZEC) program similar to those in NY and IL. The plant also contributes more than $1 million in state property taxes and gives more than $300,000 to the local community each year.