Three Mile Island nuclear plant to close in 2019

Forty years ago, the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor in Londonderry Township, Penn. was the site of a nuclear meltdown, America's worst accident at a nuclear power plant.

Three Mile Island nuclear plant was the site of the worse nuclear accident on American soil back in 1979.

Other power generators that would benefit if the reactors shut down, however, have challenged NY and Illinois' nuclear payments in federal court, arguing the rules unfairly subsidize one fuel source in a federally administered competitive market and will boost ratepayer costs.

The power plant is retiring 15 years before its federal license is due for renewal, falling victim to the same competitive electricity marketplace that has doomed numerous other nuclear plants in recent years, Exelon Corp. said, adding that some state policy changes could convince the company to keep the plant open.

The low cost of electricity is being attributed to natural gas extraction from shale formations such as in Pennsylvania's Marcellus region.

The plant, based in Middletown, Pa., and about 90 miles west of Philadelphia, has lost $300 million over the past five years because of the decline in energy prices, Chicago-based Exelon said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

What Crane is talking about are the subsidies NY and IL approved to provide nuclear plants, expanding each state's portfolio of clean energy providers. Exelon said that its operating costs for just one unit at the plant are high, further damaging Three Mile Island's financial viability.

Talk of a bailout has drawn swift and influential opposition from the natural gas industry and an assortment of allies, including advocates for older Pennsylvanians, manufacturers and anti-nuclear activists. PSEG of New Jersey owns all or parts of four nuclear plants, but it has said it will not operate long-term money losers. In fact, much of the reason why the Three Mile Island generating station will close early has to do with Pennsylvania's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard.

While the levels of radioactivity released were relatively low and caused no significant health impacts on the public or the plant's workers, the ensuing nuclear disaster was the worst to ever occur in the US before or since.

"Though legislation has not yet been proposed in Pennsylvania, we are encouraged by the discussions going on in the state about the importance of nuclear", she said.

The closure decision comes amid a growing debate over what sorts of power plants deserve "green" energy incentives, usually in the form of mandates requiring utilities to buy renewable energy, and whether states should step in to preserve nuclear jobs - and carbon-free power.

"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", said Crane.

Mike Pries, a Dauphin County commissioner, said the plant provides $1 million in taxes to the state.

Unlike the solar and wind power included in tiers I and II, nuclear generators do not receive state subsidies. Sixteen other clean power sources - including solar, wind and hydro - are supported by this state energy policy. "Other options include establishing a zero emissions credit program, similar to the approach being implemented in IL and New York", Exelon said.

  • Zachary Reyes