Four decades after Three Mile Island became shorthand for America’s worst commercial nuclear power accident, there is a push to keep it open, according to reports.
NPR reported that concerns about climate change and the need for zero-carbon power are some of the factors behind the push.
“We’re at a point where if nuclear retires immediately, we would probably replace it with natural gas generation because we haven’t sufficiently planned to replace it with something cleaner,” Mark Szybist, a senior attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council, said.
The nation’s aging and shrinking nuclear power fleet is being buffeted by a flood of natural gas plants entering competitive electricity markets, relatively flat post-recession electricity demand, and states putting more emphasis on renewable energy and efficiency.
The pursuit of state guarantees has spurred questions over why ratepayers should foot the cost to keep nuclear power plants open, and whether nuclear power provides an indispensable environmental benefit in the age of global warming.
The spotlight moved in 2017 to Pennsylvania, the nation’s No. 2 nuclear power state.
That’s when Three Mile Island’s owner, Chicago-based Exelon Corp., announced it will close the plant that was the site of a terrifying partial meltdown in 1979 unless Pennsylvania comes to its financial rescue. It set this Sept. 30 as the closing date.
Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp. also said it will shut down its Beaver Valley nuclear power plant in western Pennsylvania — as well as two nuclear plants in Ohio — within three years unless Pennsylvania steps up.
So far, no rescue has been written into legislation.
Republican state Rep. Thomas Mehaffie recently introduced a bill, NPR reported, to try to keep the Pennsylvania plants open.
“If we lose one or more of these plants we might as well forget about all the time and money we’ve invested in wind and solar,” Mehaffie said.
Exelon said Pennsylvania must enact legislation by June 1 if it is to keep operating Three Mile Island, since fuel must be ordered months in advance.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.