Concern for saving Three Mile Island nuclear power plant

LONDONDERRY TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. -- Exelon Generation's announcement that it will close the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in 2019 had some wondering if there's a chance to save it.

TMI is scheduled to shut down unless the state steps in, as many may be looking towards Harrisburg for help.

Exelon Generation plans to pull the plug on operating its Three Mile Island nuclear power plant by September 30, 2019. It's why some may hope Harrisburg provides a lifeline.

Nuclear Caucus co-chair Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster County) said "many of the employees are my constituents, and this represents a significant loss of economic opportunity, jobs for folks that are employed at Three Mile Island. That's something I think we all should be concerned with."

The Nuclear Caucus is a group committed to preserving nuclear power as an energy option in Pennsylvania.

"TMI in a sense, points us to a much larger issue regarding the wholesale electricity market. I think that's the heart of the issue, and that's what we really have to take a look at," Aument said.

Exelon Generation recently lost out in the wholesale energy market to to sell the electricity generated at TMI for the third year in a row. The failure to sell electricity in the future may leave some looking for a bailout.

"A bailout or subsidy type approach that we've seen in other states such as Illinois and New York, I don't believe that's sound public policy, nor do I believe its politically viable in Pennsylvania," Aument said.

While TMI may have lost the energy auction on price, Aument believes the market should consider more than just the lowest price for electricity.

Instead, Aument suggests the market should compare the various differences among nuclear, natural gas, coal and other energy sources today, tomorrow and in the future.

"As we think about energy, we have to take much more into account. We have to take the economic impact, we have to take into account the environmental impact. We have to take into account reliability" Aument said.

The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant overcame a partial meltdown in 1979, and has continued to operate for nearly 40 years since.

Unless it's operator finds a solution at the Capitol, the future of TMI appears dim.

"I think if they believe there's an opportunity for legislation to advance, then the course could be reversed, but obviously once they start down this path of the decommissioning, you can't turn that switch back on," Aument said.

Unless someone introduces legislation sometime before 2019, Senator Aument said there currently is no bailout bill for TMI at the Capitol.