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Exelon's Three Mile Island-1 nuclear unit to shut by September

Washington — Exelon Generation's 890-MW Three Mile Island-1 nuclear unit in Middletown, Pennsylvania, will permanently shut by September 30, the company said Wednesday.

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The company said it made the decision as time ran out for state lawmakers to pass bills providing financial support to nuclear units in Pennsylvania.

Exelon said in May 2017 that it would close TMI-1 in 2019 because the unit was uneconomic to operate. The company notified regional transmission operator PJM Interconnection in May 2017 that the unit "is unprofitable and has lost more than $300 million over the past five years."

Exelon said earlier this year that it might reconsider the decision to close TMI-1 if the Pennsylvania state legislature implemented programs to provide financial support for the unit, by means of zero-emission credits or other measures.

But "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, in time to reverse the premature retirement of the plant," the company said Wednesday.

Kathleen Barron, Exelon's senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs and public policy, said in the statement, "Although we see strong support in Harrisburg and throughout Pennsylvania to reduce carbon emissions and maintain the environmental and economic benefits provided by nuclear energy, we don't see a path forward for policy changes before the June 1 fuel-purchasing deadline for TMI."

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The legislation the Pennsylvania legislature is considering would amend the state's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act of 2004 to create a tier of required zero-emission resources. The new tier would include nuclear power plants, along with solar, wind, low-impact hydro and geothermal resources. Electric distribution companies would have to buy so-called Tier III credits for all retail customers equal to 50% of the electricity sold in their service territory starting June 1.

Exelon's announcement follows a string of closures of nuclear power units in recent years for economic reasons, including sustained low prices of natural gas and in regional power markets. Ten additional nuclear units, including TMI-1, are slated to close in the US over the next several years.

Since 2016, Illinois, New York and New Jersey have adopted programs to provide financial support for struggling nuclear power plants in the form of zero-emission credits. The Illinois and New York ZEC programs recently withstood challenges in federal court.

Exelon last month submitted to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission its decommissioning plan for TMI-1, which includes "transitioning staff in three phases down to 50 full-time employees by 2022," Exelon said Wednesday in its statement.

The company said it had "selected SAFSTOR, one of three decommissioning options, for the plant and outlined a plan to dismantle large components, including the station's cooling towers, beginning in 2074."

TMI-2 was permanently closed after an accident in March 1979 resulted in a partial meltdown of the reactor's fuel.

-- Steven Dolley, Washington,

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson,