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Decommissioning Three Mile Island: Exelon officially files notice with NRC of shutdown process

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 4/5/19

Full-time employment at Three Mile Island would decrease from the current 675 to 50 by 2022, according to a decommissioning report filed today with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by Exelon …

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Decommissioning Three Mile Island: Exelon officially files notice with NRC of shutdown process

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Full-time employment at Three Mile Island would decrease from the current 675 to 50 by 2022, according to a decommissioning report filed Friday with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by Exelon Generation, the owner and operator of TMI’s Unit 1 reactor.

Exelon submitted the federally required decommissioning report, even as the company says it continues to hope state government will act to make nuclear more competitive before September 2019 — when Exelon says it will shut down TMI absent the enactment of such policy changes.

TMI as of 2018 had not made a profit in six years, according to Exelon.

A decommissioning report filing is required by the NRC as part of the process to shut down the plant.

Staffing would be reduced to 300 employees shortly after used fuel is moved to the spent fuel pool, which under the decommissioning plan would take place Sept. 30.

Full-time staffing would be down to 200 by 2021, and down to about 50 in 2022.

The loss of jobs at TMI will have a “direct negative impact” on Londonderry Township because it will mean less revenue from the earned income tax, township Manager Steve Letavic told the Press & Journal during a town hall meeting Saturday.

Many TMI employees shop in the township and some live there, so their loss will also lead to a revenue decline beyond just the earned income tax levy, he added.

The decommissioning plan calls for moving fuel to dry cask storage in 2022, where Exelon said it would be “protected in a hardened facility with multiple layers of structural, human and electronic security.”

However, it would not be until 2074 that large components such as the cooling towers are dismantled, Exelon said.

This is to allow “additional time for normal radioactive decay,” resulting in “less waste and lower radiation exposure” and a “safer environment” for the workforce that will handle the decommissioning at that time, Exelon said.

The year 2074 is 100 years after the plant first opened.

“We are actively engaged with stakeholders and policymakers on a solution to preserve Pennsylvania’s nuclear facilities and the clean, reliable energy and good paying-jobs they provide — a solution that will maintain nuclear energy’s $2 billion annual contribution to the state’s economy and its approximately 16,000 direct and indirect Pennsylvania jobs. However, time is not on our side,” TMI Unit 1 Site Vice President Edward Callan is quoted saying in the release.

Eric Epstein, chairman of the nuclear watchdog group TMI-Alert, issued a statement criticizing several aspects of the Exelon decommissioning plan.

“Exelon is retreating from a timely cleanup of TMI-1, and this announcement means the damaged reactor — TMI-2 — will not be cleaned up until almost 100 years after the meltdown,” Epstein said in an email to the Press & Journal.

“Exelon has made a decision to abandon the community, cut staffing and not use a highly trained workforce to clean up TMI-1 and TMI-2. TMI is not suitable to continue serving as a high level radioactive waste site, and this announcement strands 1,200 metric tons of nuclear garbage and countless employees,” he added.

Exelon supports legislation that was introduced on March 11 by state House Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Lower Swatara Township, that would make TMI and the four other nuclear plants in Pennsylvania eligible for credits that electric utilities would have to purchase to recognize nuclear’s “carbon-free” generation of electricity, according to proponents of the legislation.

Advocates say the legislation would put TMI and the other nuclear plants on the same level playing field as 16 other forms of energy production in Pennsylvania, including renewables such as wind and solar.

Hearings on Mehaffie’s legislation, House Bill 11, started Monday before the House Consumer Affairs Committee.

Similar legislation on the Senate side of the aisle — Senate Bill 510 — sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument was unveiled on Thursday.

Among differences between Aument’s legislation and that introduced by Mehaffie are changes intended to ensure that renewables such as solar and wind “qualify and benefit from” the same credits to be made available to nuclear, according to a source in Aument’s office who worked on the legislation.

Opponents dismiss both proposals as an unwarranted bailout that would increase electricity costs for all Pennsylvania residents.