Owner says Three Mile Island plant to shut down in 2019

Three Mile Island nuclear power plant to close in 2019

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

The owner of Three Mile Island, Exelon, said operating costs for just one unit at the plant were high, further damaging Three Mile Island's financial viability in a time of competition from natural gas and renewable energies.

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.

Exelon and other nuclear power plant owners have made the pitch to states that zero-carbon nuclear plants are better suited than natural gas or coal to fight climate change.

Exelon has been seeking the same kind of subsidies from Pennsylvania, which it provides to solar, wind and hydro energy power sources.

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According to the press release, 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".

FirstEnergy 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.

The plant's name has been synonymous with public fears over the risks associated with nuclear power since the plant suffered a partial meltdown in 1979, sparking sweeping new rules for handling emergencies at nuclear sites.

Three Mile Island - which experienced a partial reactor meltdown in 1979, spawning nationwide protests - will shut in 2019. No nuclear plant that was proposed after the accident has been successfully completed and put into operation.

The damaged reactor has been mothballed since then but the other reactor is still in use.

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Because of the flood of natural gas on the market, a lot of it from the Northeast's Marcellus Shale formation, dozens of new gas-fired plants are coming online or planned.

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.

Closing Three Mile Island would have little or no effect on electricity bills, analysts say.

The Chicago-based company, which pays more than $1 million in property taxes a year, said it would close September 30, 2019 unless Pennsylvania adopts rules to compensate it for benefits it says nuclear power provides - a policy that's already in place in NY and IL. But it may be replaced by carbon-emitting power sources such as coal or natural gas. The plant also contributes more than $1 million in state property taxes and gives more than $300,000 to the local community each year.

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