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Ownership of TMI Unit 2 to change, may speed up its decommissioning

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 10/23/19

An agreement has been signed to transfer ownership of Three Mile Island Unit 2 from GPU Nuclear Inc. and other subsidiaries of FirstEnergy Corp. to EnergySolutions Inc. of Salt Lake City, …

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Ownership of TMI Unit 2 to change, may speed up its decommissioning

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An agreement has been signed to transfer ownership of Three Mile Island Unit 2 from GPU Nuclear Inc. and other subsidiaries of FirstEnergy Corp. to EnergySolutions Inc. of Salt Lake City, Utah.

FirstEnergy and EnergySolutions jointly made the announcement Oct. 15.

Unit 2 is the site of the nation’s worst commercial nuclear power accident, the partial meltdown that occurred in March 1979 resulting in permanent closure of the reactor.

The agreement would transfer the Unit 2 plant and property, its nuclear decommissioning trust fund, plant licenses and responsibility for decommissioning of Unit 2 to EnergySolutions.

The proposed transfer is expected to close in the second half of 2020, subject to approval by the state and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Decommissioning of Unit 2 is separate from that of Unit 1, the other reactor at TMI that owner Exelon shut down Sept. 20.

“Transfer of TMI-2 removes any future nuclear decommissioning obligations from FirstEnergy and is consistent with our strategy of focusing on regulated utility operations,” Greg Halnon, president and chief nuclear officer of GPU Nuclear, said in the FirstEnergy announcement.

The transfer to EnergySolutions is expected to hasten decommissioning of Unit 2.

EnergySolutions has already formed a joint venture to decommission Unit 2 with Jingoli, a construction company based in New Jersey, EnergySolutions said in its release.

“We are excited for the opportunity to safely decommission Unit 2 at Three Mile Island and restore the area to its natural state,” EnergySolutions President and CEO Ken Robuck said in a press release. “We currently have four decommissioning projects, two of which will be completed in the next six months. Every project has provided valuable experience with best practices and lessons learned that we will incorporate into this project to safely decommission the facility.”

Ninety-nine percent of the nuclear fuel was removed from Unit 2 in the 1980s. However, active decommissioning of Unit 2 is not to take place for several decades, under the current long-term storage option chosen by GPU Nuclear in its plan submitted to the NRC.

Any proposed changes to the decommissioning plan or schedule would have to be submitted to the NRC, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan told the Press & Journal.

As of Monday, the NRC has not received anything  regarding the proposed transfer of Unit 2 from FirstEnergy to EnergySolutions, Sheehan said. EnergySolutions will need to submit a license transfer application to the NRC, Sheehan said.

Decommissioning of Unit 1, such as dismantling the cooling towers, is not supposed to take place until 2074, under the long-term storage option that Exelon has chosen in its decommissioning plan submitted to the NRC.

However, advocates including the watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert are urging Exelon to speed up its decommissioning of Unit 1.

These advocates also say that under the current plans submitted to the NRC, complete decommissioning of Unit 2 cannot take place until Unit 1 is decommissioned.