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Three Mile Island (TMI) unit 1 has been shut down for economic reasons after over 45 years of generation. As the Pennsylvania plant closed, hundreds of people attended a rally to demand action by the state legislature and governor to prevent the premature retirement of the Beaver Valley nuclear plant in 2021.

Final shutdown for TMI unit 1 (Image: Exelon)

Operators took the 819 MWe (net) pressurised water reactor offline for the final time at midday on 20 September, after it set a site record of 709 continuous days in operation.

"Today we celebrate the proud legacy of TMI Unit 1 and the thousands of employees who shared our commitment to safety, operational excellence and environmental stewardship for nearly five decades," Bryan Hanson, Exelon senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, said.

"At a time when our communities are demanding more clean energy to address climate change, it's regrettable that state law does not support the continued operation of this safe and reliable source of carbon-free power. It's critical that we continue to pursue policy reform to prevent other carbon-free nuclear resources from being pushed out of the market by rules that fail to evenly value clean energy resources and at the same time allow emitting resources to pollute for free."

The unit had been licensed to operate until 2034, but Exelon earlier this year confirmed it would close this month after the state of Pennsylvania failed to enact a policy solution recognising nuclear energy for its contribution to zero-carbon energy production. It will now be decommissioned.

Prior to TMI's closure, five nuclear power plants - Beaver Valley, Limerick, Peach Bottom, Susquehanna and TMI - together produced nearly 40% of Pennsylvania's total electricity generation and just over 93% of its zero-emissions energy. FirstEnergy in 2018 announced plans to prematurely retire the Beaver Valley units, as well as its plants at Davis-Besse and Perry in Ohio, by 2021 unless legislative policy solutions can be found to keep them operating. The company in July rescinded deactivation notices for Davis-Besse and Perry after Ohio passed into law a bill providing clean energy credits to zero-emission power producers.

As TMI closed, hundreds of people including State Representatives Rob Matzie, Jim Marshall and Josh Kail, as well as labour, business and community leaders rallied at the Beaver County Courthouse to demand energy policy reforms to prevent the premature retirement of Beaver Valley.

"The legislature and Governor Wolf failed to act in time to save TMI - they must act now to prevent further economic and environmental damage to our Pennsylvania communities," Dan Onuska, of electrical workers union IBEW Local 29, said. "When nuclear plants shut down, our state loses a zero-emission source of electricity and diversity on the energy grid. Our state loses reliable and affordable electricity that powers small and big businesses alike. And our state loses the ability to keep our air clean for Pennsylvanians of all generations."

Nuclear Powers Pennsylvania Co-Chair Martin Williams said Pennsylvanians "should be alarmed" by the prospect of further nuclear power plant closures.

"We can learn from other states, such as Illinois, New York, Ohio, New Jersey and Connecticut, who have adopted zero-emission credit programmes which have enabled them to keep nuclear plants operating to protect the environment and save thousands of jobs," he said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Tuesday, 24 September 2019
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