Exelon to Shutter Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant Early

Birds stand along the shore of the Susquehanna River near the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, where the US suffered its most serious nuclear accident in 1979, in Middletown, Pennsylvania March 15, 2011.

"Absent policy reforms, the loss of Pennsylvania nuclear plants would increase air pollution, compromise the resiliency of the electric grid, raise energy prices for consumers, eliminate thousands of good-paying local jobs and weaken the state's economy", company officials wrote.

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.

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

On March 28, 1979, the core of one of Three Mile Island's nuclear reactors partially melted down. Exelon, which had filed a formal notice with federal nuclear regulators to deactivate the Clinton and Quad Cities plants, withdrew its notice.

Tom Schuster, senior campaign representative with the Sierra Club, said his organization also wants to participate in those discussions.

Power producers bid in annual capacity auctions for long-term contracts to supply electricity; Three Mile Island hasn't cleared its past three annual auctions.

Nuclear plants also have struggled to compete from an operational cost standpoint, especially when considering Talen's Susquehanna plant employs more than 1,000 people.

Exelon Corporation announced Tuesday that it intends to close the Pennsylvania site in 2019, unless the state intervenes with subsidies to keep it open.

The Three Mile Island closure may signal the start of a rush of nuclear power plants going permanently offline, victims of a changing energy market and uncertain public acceptance. No new nuclear reactors were ordered in the USA for the following three decades.

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. The auction determines which power plants will be needed three years from now and the retainer fees they'll be paid to be on hand.

While Exelon said it will doggedly pursue ways to keep TMI afloat, it said it was taking immediate steps to begin shutting down the plant.

Exelon Corp, which owns the facility, said the low cost of natural gas extraction had made nuclear-generated electricity unprofitable.

The nuclear power industry has been hurt financially by a natural gas boom fueled by a rise in fracking. Nuclear power makes up about 37% of the state's total power production.

Wind and solar power, meanwhile, have shown strong gains, though they still generate a small fraction of electricity used. Meanwhile, electricity consumption hit a wall after the recession, while states have emphasized renewable energies and efficiency. American nuclear generating capacity has remained stable since the 1990s and many reactors, like Three Mile Island, are more than 40 years old.

  • Zachary Reyes