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Three Mile Island will shut down on September 30, Exelon Generation announces

DAUPHIN COUNTY -- With three legislative session days left in May and no action coming to advance either of the House or Senate bills in time to end its premature retirement Three Mile Island will be shut down on Sept. 30, Exelon Generation announced Wednesday.

The station's shutdown was originally announced by Exelon in May 2017.

“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.

“I want to thank the hundreds of men and women who will continue to safely operate TMI through September. We will offer a position elsewhere in Exelon to every employee who wishes to stay with the company and is willing to relocate, and we will do all we can to support the community, the employees and their families during this difficult period,” Hanson added.

Exelon Generation previously announced that the station would prematurely shut down, absent policy reform, due to economic challenges and market flaws that fail to recognize the environmental and resiliency benefits from TMI and other zero-carbon nuclear energy plants across the Commonwealth.

“Although we see strong support in Harrisburg and throughout Pennsylvania to reduce carbon emissions and maintain the environmental and economic benefits provided by nuclear energy, we don’t see a path forward for policy changes before the June 1 fuel purchasing deadline for TMI,” said Kathleen Barrón, Exelon senior vice president, government and regulatory affairs and public policy. “While TMI will close in September as planned, the state has eight other zero-carbon nuclear units that provide around-the-clock clean energy, avoiding millions of tons of carbon emissions every year. We will continue to work with the legislature and all stakeholders to enact policies that will secure a clean energy future for all Pennsylvanians.”

Last month, Exelon Generation filed the federally required Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report detailing plans for TMI after its final shutdown, including transitioning staff in three phases down to 50 full-time employees by 2022.

In the filing, Exelon Generation selected “SAFSTOR,” one of three decommissioning options for the plant, and outlined a plan to dismantle large components, including the station’s cooling towers, beginning in 2074.

The shutdown will come 40 years after the nation's worst nuclear accident occurred at the plant on March 28, 1979, when the unit 2 reactor at the plant had a partial meltdown, releasing radiation into the air.

Governor Tom Wolf issued a statement on the plant's shutdown.

“I was disappointed to learn this morning’s unfortunate news and continue to stand today with the workers at Three Mile Island and the surrounding community. I have directed the Department of Labor & Industry to immediately begin plans to engage with these workers about their futures, and a Rapid Response team is in the process of being deployed. They are skilled workers who are in-demand in the economy. While I understand the operator is working to offer internal positions to these workers, we will not spare our resources to provide assistance to those who will be impacted.

“I still believe it is essential to continue this important conversation about preserving and growing Pennsylvania’s carbon-free energy footprint. I remain hopeful that a consensus on a path forward can be reached in the coming weeks.”

Eric Epstein is the chairman of "Three Mile Island Alert," a safe energy group that is pushing for the closure of the plant.

He issued the following statement:

"Three Mile Island Unit 1 ("TMI-1") came on line in 1974, and functioned beyond the 40 years it was constructed and designed to operate. The cessation of operations provides the opportunity to decommission and decontamination TMI-1, and remove 1,200 metric tons of high level waste stranded in spent fuel pools.

TMI possesses a skilled work force with unique institutional knowledge that can be deployed to clean the site up to Greenfield.

Three Mile Island Unit-2 ("TMI-2"), the site of America's worst commercial accident, has not been decontaminated or decommissioned. The closure of TMI-1 allows TMI-2 to be clean up 40 years after the core-melt accident.

We need to be vigilant, and make out-of-state limited liability companies do not renege on their commitments. Exelon has announced plans to moth ball TMI-1 for 60 years, lay off workers, and abandon the local community.

The next stage of the TMI saga will focus on the cleanup of Three Mile Island.

TMI-Alert supports an expedited cleanup process known as DECON. The organization offered 11 recommendations Before the House Environmental Committee: Testimony of Three Mile Island Alert, Inc. on Nuclear Waste Containment on April 29, 2019."

State Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) released the following statement Wednesday about the plant's closing:

“I recognize that there are many families and communities across Lancaster County and all of South Central Pennsylvania who are receiving devastating news this morning.

“To that end, I would like to acknowledge and thank the hard-working men and women who have diligently served our Commonwealth through their important work at TMI to safely produce electricity in an environmentally responsible manner to meet our 21st century energy needs.

“From the beginning, I have seen my role as co-chair of the Nuclear Energy Caucus to elevate a conversation around the important role of nuclear power in Pennsylvania, and then to ultimately put a proposal on the table that would preserve these assets.

“Unfortunately, it is clear at this point in time that there is not sufficient support to advance a proposal in time to preserve TMI.

“There are those who believe that the economic and market pressures that ultimately forced TMI to prematurely retire are isolated to that facility.

“Make no mistake, these pressures will soon be felt by all of the other nuclear plants across Pennsylvania, and unfortunately Exelon’s announcement only serves to reinforce that conclusion.

“The very thorough review completed by the Nuclear Energy Caucus has led me to believe that, absent federal or state action, the premature closure of the Commonwealth’s nuclear power plants will trigger severe impacts with regards to diminished grid resiliency, increased monthly electric bills, weakened portfolio diversity, and poorer air quality in this Commonwealth.

“I hope that I am wrong with respect to these economic and environmental consequences.

“I have been clear from the beginning that the policy goal has always been to retain the diverse energy mix in our state, prevent a monopolization of the electric grid that would expose ratepayers to excessive hikes in their energy bills, and preserve clean and efficient energy production.

“While I have great respect for the important benefits that competitive markets have provided Pennsylvania consumers, I also firmly believe that continuing to make long-term energy policy decisions based exclusively on short-term marginal cost is misguided.

“To that end, I remain committed to this issue.  As such, I will continue to work with my colleagues and stakeholders to arrive at a better solution for ratepayers, the environment, and for our Commonwealth as a whole.”

Rep. Dave Hickernell (R-Lancaster/Dauphin) today expressed disappointment and sadness on Exelon Corporation’s announcement that Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear energy station will be shut down:

“My heart truly goes out to the employees and families as I recognize the distress and negative impact this will have on them and our communities around TMI. These folks are my neighbors. I go to church with them, and I witness firsthand the angst and fear this causes them. I fear this is just the beginning of the end of the nuclear industry in Pennsylvania and that other plants will close and we will lose the most reliable and clean form of energy America is currently generating.

“As a member of the bicameral Nuclear Energy Caucus, I did everything I could to save Three Mile Island and the jobs there. I was the second original sponsor on legislation designed to help TMI and the entire nuclear industry, get through some cyclical fluctuations in the energy market and a strong advocate to encourage my colleagues to consider the bill. If we had an industry that wanted to bring 16,000 jobs to Pennsylvania, as a Legislature we would bend over backward to make that happen. But we weren’t willing to do anything to save family-sustaining jobs that are already here.

“TMI alone provided about 700 stable, good-paying jobs. Nuclear power as a whole provides 42% of all of Pennsylvania’s electricity, 93% of our zero-carbon energy emissions and accounts for nearly 16,000 full-time jobs. I believe the decision to allow Three Mile Island to close and perhaps other nuclear facilities is based on short-term energy cost profiles that are unlikely to hold true in the long term. We must think in terms of 25 to 50 years, not the last gas well we tapped or array of solar panels installed.”

The Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) issued the following response:

"We are deeply disappointed by Exelon Generation's decision to close Three Mile Island and eliminate hundreds of jobs in central Pennsylvania.  We hope that state legislators take this decision to heart.  We hope lawmakers will find a renewed sense of urgency and try one more time to maintain our diverse energy portfolio.

Three Mile Island was built with union labor, is operated by union labor, and is maintained by union labor.  Thousands of jobs have been created in central Pennsylvania because of the nuclear industry.  Today's decision will not hinder our commitment to good-paying, family-sustaining energy jobs.  We must strengthen, not weaken, Pennsylvania's energy infrastructure and the best way forward must include nuclear energy and its workers."

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