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Federal Agency Approves Transfer Of TMI-2 For Decommissioning

Matt Rourke
Cooling towers at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middletown.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is greenlighting the license transfer of Three Mile Island’s Unit 2 reactor from FirstEnergy to a subsidiary of Utah-based EnergySolutions for decommissioning.

TMI-2 Solutions is one of a few companies that aim to turn a profit by dismantling nuclear sites using less money than what’s in a dedicated fund.

The NRC said its review “determined that the proposed transfer complies with NRC regulatory requirements, provides reasonable assurance that public health and safety will be protected, and is not detrimental to the common defense and security.”

The Department of Environmental Protection had opposed the transfer, but withdrew objections after reaching an agreement on oversight in August.

On Wednesday, DEP spokesman Neil Shader said the agency looks forward to working with TMI-2 Solutions on the decommissioning.

Dauphin County Chief Clerk Chad Saylor said there are still several issues to work out, such as where nuclear waste will go and whether there is enough money to decommission the site.

In a March report to the NRC, FirstEnergy subsidiary GPU Nuclear said the trust fund had about $899 million, while the estimated clean-up costs were $1.3 billion.

DEP’s original objection claimed costs could be more, since the site has been inaccessible for decades and the full extent of the damage in the reactor is unknown.

Saylor said Dauphin County and Londonderry Township, where the plant is, have been in talks with EnergySolutions about decommissioning. He said they are pleased the company has agreed to a citizens advisory commission as part of the process.

“That really needed to happen here, particularly, given the history of TMI,” Saylor said.

TMI-2’s partial meltdown in 1979 remains the country’s most serious accident at a commercial nuclear power plant.

TMI Unit 1, owned by Exelon, shut down on Sept. 20, 2019.

The NRC’s website says decommissioning must be completed within 60 years of a plant ceasing operations, unless necessary to protect public health and safety.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among WESA, The Allegheny Front, WITF and WHYY.

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