TMI to officially cease operations Friday

Three Mile Island is officially shutting down Friday after a yearslong battle to save the nuclear plant from financial hardship.

Lacey Dean, director of nuclear communications for Exelon Generation — owner of the Dauphin County plant's Unit 1 reactor — confirmed Thursday, Sept. 19, that Friday would be the last day of operations for the plant.

"This has been a group that’s really been earnestly working to prevent what’s happening tomorrow," said Steve Aaron, of nuclear advocate Clean Jobs for Pennsylvania, on Thursday. "It’s certainly a melancholy day."

Exelon first announced closure plans in May 2017, and an ensuing battle in Harrisburg over legislation to bring in more money to the plant through alternative energy credits ultimately did not wrap up in time to save it.

More:Expected legislation might save Three Mile Island

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At a news conference outside the TMI training center at noon Friday, the Clean Jobs for Pennsylvania coalition will debrief the public on next steps, how surrounding communities will be affected and the legacy of the plant.

"I think you’re going to hear frustration," Aaron said, "at the lack of the legislature’s inability to find a solution like other states have."

States such as Illinois and New York have, in recent years, passed legislation that funneled cash to foundering nuclear plants. 

The focus Friday will be on looking to the future of the state's remaining four plants. Beaver Valley Power Station is scheduled to close in 2021.

Key players in TMI's bid to remain an energy provider are expected to speak Friday, including Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries, state Rep. Tom Mehaffie — who sponsored the alternative energy house bill — and Joe Gusler, of Central Pa. Building and Construction Trades.

"It’s not as if tomorrow is catching us by surprise," Aaron said Thursday. "Tomorrow is really about what has been lost and the recognition of those who have contributed so greatly."

It felt only right to thank the employees for their solid track record and commitment to community with charitable giving and volunteerism, he said, and to lament what's happening in Middletown right now.

"Right now, we should have 1,200 people coming into that community for a refueling outage," he said.

And it's as much of a thank you to those players as well — the carpenters, boiler makers, electricians, insulators — who depended on the biannual work and did much to stimulate the local economies.

More:After 40 years, Three Mile Island meltdown looms large

By Sept. 30, all used fuel will have been transferred to a spent fuel pool, giving the plant a permanent defueled status before its preparation for extended storage, called SAFSTOR, Dean said.

More:Official: TMI decommissioning could take decades

More:'Neighbors to a waste dump': Public begs for earlier TMI decommissioning

Staff will be reduced to 300 after Sept. 30, according to an Exelon fact sheet, and then down to 200 in 2021 and 50 in 2022. That's down from about 675 employees when the plant is fully operational. 

Dean said there have been no changes to the decommissioning plan or timeline, which would see the plant placed into temporary storage for decades before the decommissioning of the plant in 2075.