TMI Update: Jan 14, 2024


In May, 1968, Metropolitan Edison (“Met Ed”) began construction on Three Mile Island Unit-1. (“TMI-1”) The reactor (819 mw) was designed by Bacbock & Wilcox, and came on line in September, 1974. The plant was two years behind schedule, and the cost more than doubled from $183 million to $400 million. 

TMI-1 was off-line for refueling at the time of the Accident. On July 2, 1979, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (“NRC”) ordered an indefinite shutdown until assurances were in place that the plant could operate safely. The communities around Three Mile Island opposed the restart, and voted in a three county referendum to keep the plant shut down own. Legal intervention in opposition to the restart was ongoing at the time the NRC voted on restart. On May 19, 1985, the NRC voted to restart TMI-1 by a 4-1 margin. The plant came on line on October 4, 1985, TMI-1 

In, July, 1969, Met-Ed broke ground for Three Mile Island-2. (“TMI-2”)

The plant was also designed by Babcock & Wilcox (900 mw), and came on line in December, 1978. TMI-2 was five years behind schedule, and the price tag more than tripled from $206 million to $700 million.

TMI-2 was on line for 90 days (or 1/120 of its expected operating life) at the time of the meltdown. Three months of nuclear power production at TMI-2 has cost over $2.3 billion dollars in construction ($700 million), defueling ($1 billion), and cleanup bills ($804 million).

TMI’s operators – with management’s knowledge - had been falsifying primary-coolant leak rates prior to the Accident. On February  29, 1984, Met Ed settled the leak rate falsification case with the Department of Justice. The owners of Three Mile Island  were the first nuclear operator to be convicted of a felony for violating the Atomic Energy Act.

The defueling of TMI-2 concluded in 1993. The plant was placed into Post-Defueled Monitored Storage. The first dry shielded canister containing Unit 2 core debris was moved to the Idaho National Laboratory in March,1999. Each dry shielded canister contained 12 TMI Unit 2 canisters. There are a total of 29 dry shielded canisters on-site.

On April 7, 2011, the NRC issued a report to the U.S. Department of Energy about problems with the deterioration of the concrete at the horizontal storage modules. The modules were constructed in 1999 and were designed for a 50-year service life.

There is a strong likelihood than an Accident that began in the 20th century will not be cleaned up until the 22nd century.


Three Mile Island: Decommissioning Status

TMI-1: Three Mile Island Unit-1 is owned by Constellation. TMI-1’s Decommissioning Trust Fund (“DTF’) is separate and apart from PECOs Nuclear decommissioning trusts for Limerick, Peach Bottom, and Salem. These reactors are regulated under the Decommissioning Cost Adjustment tariff, and can request rate relief. TMI-1 was taken out of the rate base as a result of deregulation, and can not recover any additional costs through the Public Utility Commission.

TMI-1 had no dry cask storage at the end of it s operations. Instead, the Company re-racked its spent fuel. Exelon petitioned the NRC for a “special exemption” to finance dry cask storage construction. Exelon waited until the plant was shut down to build an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation The NRC allowed Exelon to raid the DTF, despite the fact that the TMI-1 trust fund was underfunded. TMI-Alert objected to the “special exemption.”

TMI-1 hired NAC International to oversee dry cask construction, design, and fuel loading. The contract included the transfer of used fuel to dry cask storage to a new Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation.

In March, 2023, Constellation Energy Generation told the NRC it will take $1.1 billion to completely decommission Three Mile Island Unit-1. Constellation Energy   reported that the decommissioning trust fund balance was a$617 million on December  31, 2022, down $52.5 million from the previous year,

Three Mile Island Unit-1 was shut down on September 20, 2019, The plant accesses surface water form the central channel of the Susquehanna River. TMI-1’s  permit for water use expired in October of 2021. Water use is regulated by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

TMI-1 was forced to reapply to access water for decommissioning. TMI-2 did not participate in the hearings before the SRBC, and has no permit to use water during the decommissioning of the damaged reactor. On December 15, 2022, the SRBC’s Order – which TMI Alert supported - established two major milestones: 1) TMI-1 no longer has access to enough water to operate a nuclear power plant; and,  2) TMI-1 owns non-transferable water rights.

The plant’s owners placed Unit-1 n SAFSTOR. Three Mile Island Unit-1 is not expected to be decommissioned until 2079 – exactly one hundred years after the TMI-2 meltdown.

Three Mile Island Unit-2: TMI-2 is owned by TMI-2 Solutions, a limited liability corporation organized in Delaware, based in Utah, and a wholly owned subsidiary of EnergySolutions, This corporate gimmick owns Three Mile Island Unit-2, and controls nearly $1 billion in ratepayer decommissioning funds. TriArtisan, which is a privately held equity company based in New York, owns EnergySoluitions. TriArtisan’s shares are owned by investors from outside of the nuclear industry such as Sara Lee Desserts and TGI Fridays, and 28% of the company is owned by foreign investors.

In 1992, General Public Utilities (“GPU”) maintained that the damaged reactor would be placed in Post-Defueling Monitored Storage until the end of operations at TMI-1 in 2034. The plan was to decommission TMI-1 and TMI-2 at the same time. General Public Utilities owned both units. However, this changed in 1998 when Exelon (then AmerGen Energy) bought TMI-1 for $99 million.

TMI-1 closed on September 20, 2019. The following year EnergySolutions bought TMI-2 from FirstEnergy in December, 2020. TMI-2 was removed from Post-Defueling Monitoring Storage in 2023, despite objections from TMI-Alert that the DTF was underfunded, and the cleanup plan was based on undocumented speculation. The completion of decommissioning of TMI-2 is scheduled for 2037, and Site Restoration is projected to be achieved by 2054.

Unit-2 has a dedicated decommissioning fund even though it only operated for three months, and the meltdown occurred before the decommissioning accounts were created in Pennsylvania. The cost to decommission the damaged reactor is projected to be over $1 billion. This is in addition to the $1 billion bailout funded by ratepayers and taxpayers to defuel the reactor.

Unit 2 has no rights to withdraw water from the Susquehanna River. In addition, TMI-2 has no water infrastructure or intakes, and would have to construct a water line or install storage tanks for water use. Water use at Three Mile Island is clouded by history, and poor regulatory coordination.

In June 1980, the Susquehanna Valley Alliance filed a Complaint and Injunction with the Middle District Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Metropolitan Edison. The Injunction sought to prevent the owner and operator of Three Mile Island from dumping 700,000 gallons of radioactive water into the Susquehanna River. The Injunction was granted, and the NRC was found to be in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.