The infamous Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania will close by September 2019, its owner announced Tuesday.
The power plant is retiring 15 years before its federal license is due for renewal, falling victim to the same competitive electricity marketplace that has doomed numerous other nuclear plants in recent years, Exelon Corp. said, adding that some state policy changes could convince the company to keep the plant open.
Three Mile Island is known internationally for seeing the worst nuclear power disaster in the United States, a partial core meltdown at one reactor in 1979 that empowered the anti-nuclear movement and led to significant new regulations on the industry.
“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,” Exelon CEO Chris Crane said in a statement.
Exelon used the shutdown plan to prod Pennsylvania lawmakers to pass legislation allowing nuclear plants to charge more for their electricity, as recognition of the emissions-free, relatively stable power they produce.
“Like New York and Illinois before it, the Commonwealth has an opportunity to take a leadership role by implementing a policy solution to preserve its nuclear energy facilities and the clean, reliable energy and good-paying jobs they provide,” Crane said. “We are committed to working with all stakeholders to secure Pennsylvania’s energy future, and will do all we can to support the community, the employees and their families during this difficult period.”
Just last week, Three Mile Island was shut out of a key power auction by PJM Interconnection, significantly hampering its ability to sell electricity in 2020 and 2021, Lancaster Online reported.
The plant is named for the island it occupies on the Susquehanna River, just downstream of Harrisburg.
Its first reactor, with a capacity of 852 megawatts, started operation in 1974. Its second reactor, with the same capacity, opened in 1978, but was permanently shut down in the meltdown disaster the next year.
In recent years, nuclear plants have had difficulty competing against cheap natural gas plants and renewable energy. The costs of regulatory compliance, operation and other factors are hard to reduce.
The industry argues that competitive state electricity sale standards are unfair, because they do not account for the emissions-free, stable nature of nuclear power. New York and Illinois are among the states that have acted to subsidize or otherwise allow higher costs for nuclear power in an effort to save existing reactors.