By Dave Lemery | Watchdog.org
As Pennsylvania lawmakers have held a series of hearings in both the state House of Representatives and Senate on whether to OK a $500 million annual subsidy for the state’s nuclear industry, a June 1 deadline for action has loomed over deliberations.
That date was the timeframe that Exelon, operator of the Three Mile Island nuclear power facility, had put forth as a necessary guidepost in their decision as to whether to follow through on their previously announced closure of the plant.
On Wednesday, Exelon announced that with no imminent movement on the bills that would establish the subsidy, the company will move forward with the closure at the end of September.
“Today is a difficult day for our employees, who were hopeful that state policymakers would support valuing carbon-free nuclear energy the same way they value other forms of clean energy in time to save TMI from premature closure,” Exelon Vice President Bryan Hanson said in a statement.
Hanson’s statement said that any Exelon worker who wishes to stay with the company would have a position if they’re willing to relocate.
A coalition opposed to the proposed nuclear subsidy, Citizens Against Nuclear Bailouts, issued a statement calling Exelon’s announcement a “business decision.”
“This decision was made in their boardroom, where it belongs,” the statement read. “Exelon should never have held their employees hostage as it demanded a bailout from Pennsylvania ratepayers and lawmakers.”
CANB noted that decommissioning a nuclear plant is a process that takes decades to ensure that the spent fuel is properly taken care of, meaning that there should continue to be many jobs on-site at TMI for decades to come.
“[W]e hope that Exelon holds true to their May 2018 statement that the majority of the remaining employees at the site will continue to work at the plant during the decommissioning process.”
State Sen. Ryan Aument, co-chairman of the Pennsylvania Nuclear Caucus, a group of lawmakers that put forth the nuclear subsidy legislation, said Wednesday that the TMI closure was a warning to lawmakers that they must act or see other plants in the state close as well.
“There are those who believe that the economic and market pressures that ultimately forced TMI to prematurely retire are isolated to that facility,” Aument said in a statement. “Make no mistake, these pressures will soon be felt by all of the other nuclear plants across Pennsylvania, and unfortunately Exelon’s announcement only serves to reinforce that conclusion.”
The proposed subsidy revolves around a redefinition of Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards to include nuclear power as an energy source that does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, along with renewables like wind and solar.
The Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, in a series of tweets Wednesday, argued that the potential for nuclear waste pollution is worse than carbon emissions and that a bailout would’ve been bad for the state’s economy.
“[State Sen. John DiSanto] is advancing a relief bill to help displaced workers,” the association said in one tweet. “Shutting down TMI is a much less bad outcome than the job losses caused by a [$500 million] hike in electricity bills.”