Three Mile Island nuclear plant to close in 2019

Plans are being made to close Three Mile Island in 2019 according to its owners

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. In the meantime, Exelon wants Pennsylvania to give nuclear power the preferential treatment given to renewable energies, such as wind and solar.

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. So-called nuclear bailouts have won approval in IL and NY but the potential for higher utility bills in Pennsylvania is drawing pushback from energy companies, manufacturers and consumer advocates.

"Amending the AEPS is one of many potential solutions to preserve Pennsylvania's nuclear plants".

Or, the legislature could give nuclear power credits for not producing climate-changing pollution, Exelon said, pointing out that approach has been taken recently by legislators in IL and regulators in NY.

TMI is especially hampered in the current energy market because it has had only only one unit running since Unit 2 was knocked out of service after the infamous partial-meltdown accident in 1979. No nuclear plant that was proposed after the accident has been successfully completed and put into operation.

Exelon Corporation announced last week it was having trouble selling electricity generated by Three Mile Island (TMI) in 2020 during an advanced auction in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.

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. NY and IL have both approved subsidies to keep nuclear plants in their state afloat, but the move can be controversial because it raises prices for customers.

Exelon will record one-time costs of as much as $110 million pretax in the second quarter to retire the plant before its license expires in 2034, according to the filing.

An Exelon spokesman said that announcement was made not to build pressure on lawmakers but rather to continue to be open and transparent with the plant's 675 employees whose jobs are in jeopardy and others about the economic challenges it faces that have been brought on by the low price of natural gas. As nuclear plants struggle to compete with cheaper sources of electricity, proponents have called for policies that favor nuclear because of its reliability and its lack of greenhouse gas emissions.

This story has been corrected to show the day of the Three Mile Island announcement was Tuesday, not Monday.

The March 29, 1979, incident "was the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history, although its small radioactive releases had no detectable health effects on plant workers or the public", according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Exelon has indicated it will consider closing the other plant, Quad Cities, if it does not begin to receive subsidies passed in IL a year ago.

Three Mile Island will always be famous not as an example of nuclear energy's economic obsolescence, but of the nuclear industry's slipshod management practices.

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