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article imageThree Mile Island nuclear plant set to close by September 30

By Karen Graham     May 9, 2019 in Business
Exelon Generation announced Wednesday that Three Mile Island Generating Station Unit 1 (TMI) will shut down by Sept. 30, 2019, now that it is clear that it will not get a financial rescue from Pennsylvania.
The Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear power plant in Middletown, Pennsylvania was the scene of the nation's worst nuclear disaster 40 years ago - on March 28, 1979, - when Reactor number 2 suffered a partial meltdown, resulting in a subsequent radiation leak.
Reactor number 1 at TMI was not involved in the meltdown and has continued to operate all these years, with a license to operate until 2034. However, the plant's closing comes after the Chicago-based energy giant threatened to close the money-losing plant in May 2017 unless the state of Pennsylvania stepped in to bail the plant out.
In a statement released on May 8, 2019, the plant's operator, Exelon said the money-losing facility will begin a planned shutdown on June 1 - now that it is clear that it will not get a financial rescue from the state.
Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station as of February 2014.
Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station as of February 2014.
Z22 (CC BY-SA 3.0)
"With only three legislative session days remaining in May and no action taken to advance House Bill 11 or Senate Bill 510, it is clear a state policy solution will not be enacted before June 1, in time to reverse the premature retirement of the plant," reads the statement.
“Today is a difficult day for our employees, who were hopeful that state policymakers would support valuing carbon-free nuclear energy the same way they value other forms of clean energy in time to save TMI from a premature closure,” said Bryan Hanson, Exelon senior vice president, and chief nuclear officer.
The case for carbon-free electrical generation
With the ongoing debate over nuclear power being included in the list of renewable and clean energy options in light of global warming - Three Mile Island and its upcoming closure is one example of why we need to keep nuclear power plants in the mix.
In the United States, nuclear power plants provide about 20 percent of the country's electricity and about 50 percent of our carbon-free electricity. With the continuing decline in nuclear power, and with the need to further increase our use of renewable and clean energy sources, nuclear power has become a major talking point in the debate over the U.S.’s carbon footprint.
Electrical generation from the TMI plant along the Susquehanna River is expected to be replaced by electricity from coal and natural gas-fired power plants that are already running below capacity in an over-saturated market.
Shutdown and decommissioning of TMI
Once Reactor number 1 goes offline on September 30, Exelon estimates it will cost in excess of one billion dollars and take until 2074 to decommission the facility.
Decommissioning of a nuclear plant  the containment is shown in the picture and is half deconstructe...
Decommissioning of a nuclear plant, the containment is shown in the picture and is half deconstructed. Note: The image is undated.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
"After the shutdown on Three Mile Island, fuel — the radioactive material generating heat inside of the nuclear reactor — will be moved into a pool of water. A few years after that, the fuel will be moved into dry storage, where it could stay indefinitely or until the federal government takes ownership of the material," the New York Times writes.
Exelon says it is offering its hundreds of employees new positions within the company if they are willing to relocate, and many have already accepted placement elsewhere within the company. The company's goal is to transition staff in three phases down to 50 full-time employees by 2022.
The company has selected “SAFSTOR,” one of three decommissioning options for the plant. SAFSTOR, meaning "SAFe STORage," is accepted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as meeting safety standards for nuclear decommissioning of a shut down plant.
The other two options available include nuclear decommissioning (DECON) which is the immediate dismantling of the plant and remediation of the site - and nuclear entombment (ENTOMB) which is the enclosure of contaminated parts of the plant in a permanent layer of concrete.
More about Three mile island, exelon generation, financial rescue, subsidies from state, Nuclear power
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