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Three Mile Island nuclear plant to close in 2019
by Allen Cone
Washington (UPI) May 30, 2017

Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear plant to close in 2019
New York (AFP) May 30, 2017 - The Three Mile Island Generating Station in Pennsylvania, the site of the worst nuclear accident in the United States four decades ago, announced on Tuesday that it would close in 2019 pending major policy reforms.

Exelon Corporation, which operates the plant south of Harrisburg, said it plans to close the station around September 2019. President and CEO Chris Crane called it "a difficult day" for the plant's 675 employees, their families and customers.

Staff are expected to start transitioning out within six months of the final shutdown, the Chicago-based corporation said.

Exelon said it would make shutdown notifications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission within 30 days, terminate capital investment projects required for long-term operation and cancel 2019 fuel purchases and outage planning.

Still, the corporation held the door open to preserving the plant, saying reforms to Pennsylvania state energy policy to support nuclear power could provide "one of many potential solutions."

Exelon said it is "committed" to finding the best solution, saying nuclear energy contributes $2 billion a year to Pennsylvania's economy and supports 16,000 direct and indirect jobs in the state.

But a recent slide in energy prices, with natural gas sinking 64 percent over a decade, has left nuclear energy at a disadvantage. It remains expensive and offers few opportunities to cut overhead costs.

Nuclear power represents only nine percent of energy used in the United States -- although it makes up 19 percent of electricity generation -- far behind natural gas at 32 percent, petroleum at 28 percent and coal at 21 percent.

It also conjures memories of the plant's partial reactor meltdown in March 1979, rated five on the International Nuclear Event Scale from 0 to 7.

The accident led to "very small" releases of radioactivity, according to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Although no one died and no immediate injuries were linked to the incident, no new nuclear power plants have been built in the United States since then.

The Three Mile Island atomic power plant -- site of the worst U.S. commercial nuclear accident in 1979 -- will cease operations in 2019, owner Exelon Corp. announced Tuesday.

The plant, based in Middletown, Pa., and about 90 miles west of Philadelphia, has lost $300 million over the past five years because of the decline in energy prices, Chicago-based Exelon said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The plant, which opened in 1974 and has one remaining reactor, will close around Sept. 30, 2019.

"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," said Chris Crane, Exelon president and CEO, said in a statement.

Nuclear and fossil-fueled plants are competing with cheap natural gas and rising output of wind and solar power.

Three Mile Island doesn't have anywhere to sell its electricity after September. The plant has failed to win capacity payments in this year's auction -- the third consecutive year it's happened. The generator also hasn't won government subsidies or market reforms, the company said.

"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."

The company will record one-time costs of as much as $110 million in the second quarter to retire the plant. Also, charges up to $25 million a year may be recorded in 2018 and 2019.

The station pays more than $1 million in state property taxes.

Other nuclear plants nationwide may close.

FirstEnergy Corp. has said it might decide next year to sell or close its three nuclear plants — Davis-Besse and Perry in Ohio and Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania.

Toshiba's Westinghouse division, filed for bankruptcy protection in March, placing the fate of two under-construction nuclear plants in jeopardy.

On March 28, 1979, Three Mile Island's Unit 2 partially melted down. Although its small radioactive releases had no detectable health effects on plant workers or the public, it was the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

An estimated 140,000 people were evacuated and cleanup lasted until the 1990s. The reactor was permanently shut down and hazardous materials were removed off site. The second reactor remains in use.

The NRC also tightened and heightened its regulatory oversight following the partial meltdown.

EU clears EDF takeover of Areva reactor business
Brussels (AFP) May 29, 2017
EU anti-trust regulators on Monday cleared the buyout of Areva's troubled state-owned nuclear reactor business by EDF, the electricity supplier also owned by the French state. Problem-prone Areva, which is 87-percent owned by the French state, has faced severe difficulties since 2011, when the Fukushima disaster in Japan called nuclear power generation into question. In April, Paris noti ... read more

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