OPED: TMI closure would hurt Yorkers

C. Kim Bracey
York City

I am proud to have been born and raised in York, Pennsylvania, and to have served as the city’s mayor since 2010. The potential closure of Three Mile Island is one of the more troubling community issues I have seen. I use the term “community” instead of words like “business,” “economic” or “commercial,” which, at the end of the day, do not capture what’s really at stake if TMI closes.

TMI employs more than 675 people, many of whom live in York. The loss of one of our community’s largest employers would have a profoundly negative impact, the effects of which would be felt far beyond those individuals and their families. It would spread outward, impacting the greater York community at large.

One of the many things that keeps me up at night worrying about TMI’s potential closure is the impact it would have on local businesses. Those who work at TMI have critical spending power. When they stop or reduce their spending at businesses in the area, the pain will be sharply felt. This issue is further compounded when you think about lost tax revenue and community involvement. TMI pays more than $1 million in taxes each year and donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to community programs.

A Monday, May 22, 2017, file photo shows cooling towers at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middletown, Pennsylvania. Exelon Corp., the owner of Three Mile Island, site of the United States' worst commercial nuclear power accident, said Monday, May 29, 2017, it will shut down the plant in 2019 unless it receives a financial rescue from Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

A reasonable cost of living is one thing that makes York a good place to raise a family. That includes the price tag of monthly electric bills. Nuclear energy provides almost 40 percent of the energy in the state. If we remove it from the equation, we leave ourselves relying mostly on natural gas. This would work well … in the short term. However, if prices go up and we’re overly dependent on a single energy source, then electricity prices could skyrocket. I’ve always advocated for a diverse mix of energy — which includes nuclear, wind, solar, coal and natural gas. This protects us from price fluctuations and keeps energy prices down.

The other broader issue in play if TMI closes is the environment. Nuclear plants generate 93 percent of Pennsylvania’s carbon-free electricity — the equivalent of keeping eight million cars off the road. TMI alone provides clean power to more than 800,000 homes. This is a point of pride for Pennsylvania, as we’re among the top-five carbon-free electricity producers in the country. Which will be lost if nuclear plants close.

Even if TMI’s closure wouldn’t impact you or someone you care about directly, all of us in the community would feel the indirect effects. We can’t afford to let this happen in our community, nor anywhere else in Pennsylvania, for that matter.

I encourage those who represent us in the state legislature to do research and learn about the people and communities that will be hurt if TMI closes. Sooner or later, they will have a chance to act, by supporting policy reforms that recognize the value of nuclear energy, the importance of nuclear plants in the state and their contributions to our community.

For now, I am proud to be working with fellow community, business and civic leaders to support the continued operation of TMI, as well as the other nuclear plants in Pennsylvania as a co-chair of Clean Jobs for Pennsylvania. I encourage all fellow local leaders and York residents to learn more and join us by visiting http://www.cleanjobsforpennsylvania.com/.

C. Kim Bracey is mayor of York City.