9 May (NucNet): The single-unit Three Mile Island nuclear plant is to be permanently shut down by the end of September, its owner announced yesterday.
Exelon Generation had been seeking subsidies from Pennsylvania lawmakers to keep the 819-MW pressurised water reactor unit in commercial operation, but the company said that would apparently not happen in time.
“We do not see a path forward for policy changes before the June 1 fuel purchasing deadline for TMI,” Kathleen Barron, an Exelon senior vice-president, said in a statement.
Exelon said Three Mile Island-1, in Middletown, Pennsylvania, will shut down by September 30.
Exelon, the biggest nuclear generator in the US with 22 commercial power reactors, warned two years ago that it might be forced to shut down Unit 1 in the absence of assistance from the state legislature.
In May 2017 the company said the unit would be prematurely retired unless action was taken by the state or federal government to make it and nuclear power in general more economically competitive with natural gas. Exelon said market flaws fail to recognise the environmental and resiliency benefits from TMI and other zero-carbon nuclear energy plants.
In February the company said its Dresden, Byron, and Braidwood nuclear stations in Illinois were showing increased signs of economic distress which could lead to their early retirement in a market that does not compensate them for their contribution to grid resiliency and their ability to produce large amounts of energy without carbon and air pollution.
The Washington-based industry group the Nuclear Energy Institute has long been calling for significant investment and bold policy to help the US maintain its position as a world leader in nuclear safety, technology, and operations.
In January NEI president and chief executive officer Maria Korsnick said the nuclear sector is under stress because it has been taken for granted in “a perfect storm” created by very low natural gas prices, very low demand increases for electricity and subsidies for other types of generation.
“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.
Three Mile Island-2, the other nuclear unit at the site, was shut down in March 1979 after it partially meted down in the most serious accident in US commercial nuclear power plant operating history.
The accident was Level 5 on the seven-level International Nuclear and Radiological Events Scale.
No one died at Three Mile Island and no one was seriously injured, but the accident led to concern about the safety of nuclear power and slowed the construction of new reactors.