Power play: Three Mile Island to shut down by 2019

Power play: Three Mile Island to shut down by 2019
The owners of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania said they would close the facility by 2019 unless the state changes its energy policy, which gives preferential treatment to wind and solar power generation.

The Illinois-based Exelon Corporation will retire Three Mile Island (TMI) by September 2019, after five years of posting losses and a recent failure to auction off power to the regional grid. Nuclear power is not among the 16 clean power sources listed in Pennsylvania’s energy portfolio, making TMI less competitive than solar, wind and hydroelectric plants.

“Today is a difficult day, not just for the 675 talented men and women who have dedicated themselves to operating Three Mile Island safely and reliably every day, but also for their families, the communities and customers who depend on this plant to produce clean energy and support local jobs,” Chris Crane, Exelon president and CEO, said in a statement.

Nuclear plants are feeling the pain as electricity prices in competitive markets have dropped due to a natural gas boom, according to Business Insider.

Exelon still hopes to stave off the closure if Pennsylvania amends its Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS), or establishes a zero-emissions credit program along the lines of Illinois and New York.

The company’s statement pointed out that Three Mile Island produces 93 percent of Pennsylvania’s emissions-free electricity and avoids 37 million tons of carbon emissions, the equivalent of keeping 10 million cars off the road every year.

In addition to 675 employees, Three Mile Island contracts another 1,500 local union workers to deal with refueling outages, Exelon said. The plant also contributes more than $1 million in state property taxes and gives more than $300,000 to the local community each year.

“Exelon is committed to working with its stakeholders to find the best solution for Pennsylvania — one that will maintain nuclear energy’s $2 billion annual contribution to the state’s economy and its approximately 16,000 direct and indirect Pennsylvania jobs,” the company said.

Exelon’s stock went up following the announcement.

Three Mile Island gained notoriety in 1979, when a faulty valve combined with operator error caused a release of nuclear coolant and a partial meltdown on the Unit 2 reactor. Clean-up operations took over 14 years and cost about $1 billion.