Three Mile Island owner threatens to close ill-fated plant

Tuesday's announcement from Exelon Corporation came a week after TMI failed to sell its electricity to the mid-Atlantic power grid for the 2020-2021 planning year. Exelon is one of the largest competitive USA power generators, with more than 33,300 megawatts of nuclear, gas, wind, solar and hydroelectric generating capacity comprising one of the nation's cleanest and lowest-cost power generation fleets.

Around the US, nuclear plants have been hammered by the natural gas boom that has slashed electricity prices in competitive markets.

Three Mile Island - which experienced a partial reactor meltdown in 1979, spawning nationwide protests - will shut in 2019.

Since 2013, six nuclear reactors in the United States have shut for economic reasons. Yet 16 clean power sources including solar, wind and hydro energy are supported by this state energy policy.

In 1994 a protester drove through the gates of Three Mile Island, causing the company to spend more than $1m (£777,000) on security upgrades.

Exelon has accused Pennsylvania of failing to include nuclear energy in its alternative energy plans, even though it provides emissions-free electricity that fights climate change.

"Like New York and IL 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".

In December, Illinois approved $235 million a year for Exelon to prop up nuclear plants in the Quad Cities and Clinton, six months after the company threatened to shut them down.

Exelon said it will take a one-time charge of $65-110 million for 2017 for the early retirement of Three Mile Island, and accelerate about $1.0-1.1 billion in depreciation and amortization through the announced shutdown date. No nuclear plant that was proposed after the accident has been successfully completed and put into operation.

The plant near Harrisburg, Pa., hasn't been profitable for the past five years, according to owner Exelon Corp.

"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", Exelon CEO Chris Crane said in a statement. But it may be replaced by carbon-emitting power sources such as coal or natural gas.

Perhaps nuclear power's biggest nemesis is the cheap natural gas flooding the market from the Northeast's Marcellus Shale reservoir, the nation's most prolific gas field.

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  • Zachary Reyes