Three Mile Island is being shut down

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The owners of the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania need a miracle. The single-reactor plant survived a partial meltdown in 1979, but financial woes after five years of flat-line profits may force the plant to close in 2019. The Middletown energy provider had a license to continue operating until 2034.

Maybe it was just a matter of time, since the words “Three Mile Island” became synonymous with impending nuclear doom way back in 1979. Other accidents around the world, including Russia and Japan, have contributed to even more uncertainty in people’s minds about the safety and cost-effectiveness of nuclear power… And then there was a shale gas boon in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, which began in 2006. Cheap natural gas has apparently flooded the market and edged out the nuclear competition.

Exelon, the Chicago-based company that owns the Middletown power plant, announced the early closure on Monday.

CEO Chris Crane let Pennsylvania officials know that they would have the power to provide said miracle in a statement: “The Commonwealth [of Pennsylvania] 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.” Three Mile Island employs 675 people.

“This is completely inconsistent with the plan,” commented Arthur Motta, the chair of the nuclear engineering program at Pennsylvania State University in an interview with Fox News. “Renewable energy sources are only economically competitive with these subsidies, and without them, nuclear plants become even less competitive.”

Motta noted that if federal government doesn’t subsidize nuclear power generation, Exelon and other nuclear power plants; including several located in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey, facing the same predicament must look towards their states for financial aid before hundreds of people lose their jobs.

Exelon did secure that miracle at the end of last year when Illinois lawmakers approved giving them subsidies of $235 million a year to keep nuclear plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities keep running six months after the company said they’d have to close.

FirstEnergy has said it could decide next year to sell or close its three nuclear plants — Davis-Besse and Perry in Ohio and Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania. PSEG of New Jersey, which owns all or parts of four nuclear plants, has said it won’t operate ones that are long-term money losers.

“Governor Wolf is concerned about potential layoffs and empathizes with these employees,” stated press secretary J.J. Abbott. “As we move forward, we expect a robust conversation about the state’s energy sector. Governor Wolf is open to these conversations and looks forward to engaging with the General Assembly about what direction Pennsylvania will go in regards to its energy sector, including the future of nuclear power.”

If Pennsylvania officials make that last-minute change in policy to include nuclear power in their alternative energy agenda, then the miracle could keep Three Mile Island smoking.

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