June 27, 2009

Three Mile Island Environmental License Renewed Through 2034

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released a statement on Friday announcing the completion of the environmental section of the license renewal proceeding for Exelon Corp's 786-megawatt Unit 1 at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station in Pennsylvania, Reuters reported.

It concluded that an additional 20 years of operation would present no environmental impacts.

Unit 1's current license expires on April 19, 2014. But the renewal will extend the reactor's operating life until 2034.

News traveled across the world in 1979 when the sister unit at Three Mile Island near the Pennsylvania state capital of Harrisburg partially melted down, creating the worst nuclear power accident in United States history.

Before the eventual "nuclear renaissance," the Three Mile Island meltdown became synonymous with the dangers of nuclear power and partially halted the spread of the U.S. nuclear industry.

At the time, Three Mile Island was not yet under the ownership of Exelon, the biggest nuclear power operators in the United States.

The NRC has granted new licenses for 54 reactors since 2000, when it approved its first 20-year license renewal. Twelve new applications, some for multiple units including Three Mile Island, are currently under review.

Exelon filed for the renewal in January 2008. The NRC usually takes about 22 months (November 2009) to make a decision without a hearing and about 30 months (July 2010) with a hearing.

However, the Three Mile Island application had no requested hearings.

The two-step renewal process, which includes a safety and environmental review, was enacted to determine how an operator manages the aging of a reactor. The environmental review ends with the publication of the final environmental impact statement.

The NRC is expected to issue the safety evaluation report in July.

The Three Mile Island 1 reactor is located in Middletown in Dauphin County about 10 miles southeast of Harrisburg. It entered service in 1974 and one megawatt powers about 800 to 1,000 homes in Pennsylvania.

The Chicago-based Exelon owns and operates more than 38,000 MW of generating capacity, where it markets energy commodities and transmits and distributes electricity to about 5.4 million customers in northern Illinois and southeast Pennsylvania.


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