Geiger Counting

June 30, 2017


Exelon, owner of the nuclear plant at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, has advised the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission it intends to retire the plant on or about Sept. 30, 2019, due to severe economic challenges. Earlier this month, Exelon sent a deactivation notice to PJM Interconnection, the overseer of the largest electric grid in North America.

Bryan Hanson, Exelon Nuclear’s president, says TMI has lost more than $300 million over the past five years, in part because energy market prices are low. Hanson also notes, “Sixteen other types of clean energy are supported by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the alternative energy portfolio standard, and though Three Mile Island 1 produces more clean energy than all of those sources combined, it is not eligible for support under that program.”

The plant was the site of the United States' worst commercial nuclear power accident, a 1979 partial core meltdown of one reactor. The other reactor is still in use. TMI's operating license does not expire until 2034.

Yucca Mountain Approval

The mothballed nuclear waste dump at Nevada's Yucca Mountain is a step closer to coming back to life after House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill, 49-4, to approve a bill to revive the site. According to the House bill, spent fuel has piled up in 121 communities in 39 states.

The legislation would set a time limit for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to approve the project and makes a necessary land transfer for the project.

The Trump administration's proposed budget includes $120 million to restart the licensing process for the site which is located 90 miles from Las Vegas. The intent is to permanently relocate spent nuclear fuel that is currently stored in various temporary locations - some safe, some not. Nevada officials from both parties fiercely oppose reopening the site citing groundwater and transportation issues.

Yucca Mountain had been slated to accept some 70,000 metric tons of spent fuel but the Obama administration, acknowledging strenuous objections from Nevada lawmakers, cut funding for the project.

In the meantime, the House introduced a bill to build a temporary, secure storage site for nuclear waste in New Mexico or Texas. There has been interest from private developers to have underground state-of-the-art storage facilities in remote areas of either state that would secure the deadly fuel for up to 40 years.

Re-licensing the Yucca site could take years, according to the nuclear industry.