Three Mile Island, site of the United States' worst nuclear power accident, will begin a planned shutdown starting June 1 now that it is clear that it will not get a financial rescue from Pennsylvania, its owner said Wednesday. Exelon Corp.'s statement comes two years after the Chicago-based energy giant threatened to close the money-losing plant without what critics have called a bailout. The fight over Three Mile Island and Pennsylvania's four other nuclear power plants invigorated a debate over the "zero carbon emissions" of nuclear power in the age of global warming, the AP reports. Three Mile Island faced particularly difficult economics because 1979's terrifying partial meltdown left it with just one reactor.
Three Mile Island's Unit 1 is licensed to operate through 2034, and shutting it down will cut its life short by 15 years. Power from the plant along the Susquehanna River is expected to be replaced by electricity from coal and natural gas-fired power plants that run below capacity in a saturated market. It will go offline by Sept. 30, Exelon said. Cleaning up Unit 1, dismantling its buildings and removing spent fuel could take six decades and cost more than $1 billion, Exelon estimates. The destroyed Unit 2 is sealed and twin cooling towers remain standing. Its core was shipped away years ago to the US Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory and what is left inside the containment building remains highly radioactive and encased in cement. (Read more nuclear plants stories.)