May 8, 2019 / 7:29 PM / 4 months ago

Exelon to close Pennsylvania Three Mile Island nuclear plant in September

(Reuters) - U.S. energy company Exelon Corp said Wednesday it will shut the last reactor at the Three Mile Island power plant, site of the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history, on Sept. 30 due to legislative inaction on a nuclear subsidy bill in Pennsylvania.

FILE PHOTO: A bird flies over the Three Mile Island Nuclear power plant in Goldsboro, Pennsylvania, U.S. May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

“With only three legislative session days remaining in May and no action taken to advance House Bill 11 or Senate Bill 510, it is clear a state policy solution will not be enacted before June 1,” Exelon said in a release, referring to the proposed nuclear subsidy bills.

Exelon said it had to make a decision by June 1 to purchase fuel for the plant for its next operating cycle. The company announced in May 2017 that it would shut the 45-year-old reactor in 2019 without policy reform to support the plant.

Analysts at Height Capital Markets said in a report that the shutdown, which will come 40 years after the 1979 meltdown of another reactor at the plant, will increase pressure on Pennsylvania legislators to pass a nuclear subsidy bill in the autumn to protect the state’s remaining eight reactors from early closures.

In recent years, electricity prices have been depressed by cheap natural gas from shale fields, including the Marcellus in Pennsylvania, and increased use of renewable power. This has made some nuclear plants uneconomical, and forced generators to shut several reactors over the past five years.

Several states, including New York, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey have already adopted nuclear subsidies to keep their reactors in service to help meet carbon reduction goals.

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio are considering legislation, while officials in U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration have proposed programs to keep nuclear and coal plants operating longer.

In late April, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf released a plan to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve those goals, Wolf recommended implementing policies to keep the state’s nuclear reactors in service. Nuclear plants do not emit carbon dioxide, one of the major causes of global warming.

Nuclear power plants generate 42 percent of Pennsylvania’s electricity and provide 93 percent of its zero-carbon power.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, Exelon operates two reactors at the Peach Bottom and two at Limerick, FirstEnergy Corp operates two reactors at Beaver Valley and Talen Energy owns two at Susquehanna.

FirstEnergy’s bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions unit said it would shut Beaver Valley in 2021 unless the reactors receive some financial support from federal or state programs.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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