Premature retirements of the US nuclear fleet continued last week as Exelon Generation shut down Three Mile Island’s 829 MW Unit 1 reactor, reigniting the debate as to whether or not Pennsylvania should provide financial assistance to its remaining four nuclear plants. One of the remaining plants, Beaver Valley, is scheduled to be shut down in 2021.
Exelon said Three Mile Island was losing money as a result of competition driven by low natural gas prices. The plant had not been profitable since 2012, no doubt aided by the fact that it only had one reactor after the partial meltdown of Unit 2 in 1979.
Lawmakers in Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio have all given subsidies to keep nuclear plants in their states operating. Supporters of the subsidies say nuclear power is a reliable source of carbon-free power that must be kept operational in order to meet strict climate goals, while opponents cite the high cost for taxpayers and opposition to the potential disruption of or tampering with the existing energy market.
In 2018, nuclear power generated approximately 39% of Pennsylvania’s electricity and 93% of its carbon-free power.