What will it take to shut down TMI Unit 1? Feds say 60 years and more than $1B

Mark Abrams
July 16, 2019 - 3:48 pm
What will it take to shut down Three Mile Island Unit 1? Feds say 60 years, more than $1B

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It will take 60 years to complete, and the price tag is more than a billion dollars.

That's what officials are saying it will take to put Three Mile Island's Unit 1 nuclear power plant out of service for good.

"Decommissioning a nuclear power plant is more akin to a marathon than a sprint," said Jack Parrott, a senior project official for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which will oversee the end of TMI-1 operations near Harrisburg.  

"Another way to think of it is as a giant deconstruction project with miles of cables and pipes removed and tons of materials hauled away," Parrott said. 

TMI-1 was the reactor that wasn't damaged in the March 1979 accident at it's twin, TMI-2.

Bruce Watson, chief of the NRC's reactor decommissioning branch, said the first task is removing the nuclear fuel and eventually placing it into storage containers on the site. 

After that, Watson said the other highly-radioactive areas of the plant will be sealed off.

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"They will go into a SAFESTOR situation where the plant is in long-term storage for about 50 years, which will allow for the radioactive decay to take place," Watson said. 

After 50 years, they will begin the process of decommissioning the plant. 

"So, it will take seven to 10 years to decommission the plant. The license termination for the actual plant, or decommissioning, is supposed to be completed without 60 years," Watson said. 

That puts the clock at 2079. 

TMI-1 is owned by Exelon, which made a decision a few months ago to close the plant this September after failing to get an energy bailout package from the Pennsylvania legislature.