TMI ends what could be its last refueling
Unit 1 of Three Mile Island is back on line as of 3 a.m. Friday, Oct. 13, ending what could be the last planned refueling outage in the history of the nuclear power plant in Londonderry Township.
Every two years Unit 1 at TMI is shut down for about three weeks for refueling and maintenance. This year the shut down lasted from Sept. 17, when TMI was taken off line, until Oct. 13.
The shut down brought to the area an estimated 1,200 skilled contractors who were involved in jobs related to refueling and reactor and performing maintenance, TMI owner Exelon Generation said in an Oct. 13 press release.
Economic impact of refueling
The combined salaries of the contracted workers during the refueling at TMI exceeded $30 million, Exelon said. The refueling also provided an economic boost to local purchasing and procurement, the company added.
The 1,200 outside contractors are in addition to the 675 employees who work at TMI all year.
Exelon in the release reminded the public that, unless Pennsylvania lawmakers enact “policy reforms” to support nuclear energy, TMI will be retired prematurely in September 2019 – meaning this would be the last time that the region experiences the economic benefits of the refueling.
“Our sales jumped nearly $10,000 within the past three weeks,” River House Bar and Grill owner Justin Nicholson was quoted saying in the release. “We really appreciate the business.”
“Our employees are very professional, even though it was emotional for some of our staff,” said TMI Site Vice President Ed Callan. “It might be the last time the reactor is reassembled and brought to 100 percent power, ever. That’s hard for folks who have worked here for decades and those who moved here hoping to raise a family in Central Pennsylvania.”
Top performance but no profit
Exelon notes in the release that TMI set a world record for continuous operation in 2009, and the plant operated at 98 percent efficiency during its most recent two-year cycle, making TMI “a top performer in the industry.”
Nevertheless, TMI has not made a profit in five years, Exelon said on May 31 when it announced plans to close the plant.
TMI has also failed to clear the past three auctions held by PJM Interconnection, the operator of the electric grid for this region of the United States.
That basically means TMI is unable to produce electricity at the price the market is willing to pay. It also reflects TMI’s disadvantage compared to other nuclear plants in Pennsylvania that have two working reactors, instead of just one. Unit Two was taken out of service as a result of the accident at TMI in March, 1979.
Efforts to confront closing
Exelon seeks policy reforms that would put nuclear energy on the same footing as 16 sources of alternative energy, including wind and solar, that are part of Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard.