The last reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania — the site of the worst nuclear plant meltdowns in the U.S. — is officially dead as of Saturday.
Plant operator Exelon Corp. announced the closure was coming back in May, and now the day has finally come. The plant’s closure comes some 40 years after Unit 2 reactor at the site partially melted down on March 28, 1979, due to human error, equipment failure and design issues, releasing radiation into the environment. That event not only exposed the American public to higher levels of radiation — it also set back public trust in America's ability to do nuclear right.
The closure of Unit 1 reactor comes after Pennsylvania state legislature failed to pass a bill that would continue to subsidise the plant, reports Reuters. As awful as nuclear disasters can be, nuclear energy is a serious consideration as we envision the future of energy under the climate crisis.
Currently, it makes up nearly 20 per cent of U.S. energy generation. However, some environmentalists argue that low-income communities and communities of colour suffer at the hands of extracting the uranium necessary to run these facilities, the same argument applies in the event that a nuclear reactor fails.
“At a time when our communities are demanding more clean energy to address climate change, it’s regrettable that state law does not support the continued operation of this safe and reliable source of carbon-free power,” said Bryan Hanson, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer at Exelon, in a press release.
Almost 60 operational nuclear power plants exist today in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration. Three Mile Island powered more than 830,000 homes, according to Exelon. Now, it enters the decommissioning process, which is never simple nor quick. The process will have an estimated cost of some $2 billion, reports the New York Times.
About 300 of the plant’s employees will stay to aid in the first phase of this process. Others are taking different roles with Exelon while some chose to retire or look elsewhere for employment, per Exelon. So while some may be glad to see this facility gone, the impacts of its closure are very real for the people who depended on it for their income.