Pennsylvania Nuclear Power Plant Support Legislation

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Two state lawmakers, Rep. Thomas Mehaffie III, R-Dauphin County and Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster County, plan to introduce legislation that could keep the Three Mile Island nuclear plant operational beyond its scheduled September closure. They are planning to sponsor bills in their respective chambers that would incorporate nuclear energy into the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act — a 2004 law that requires a percentage of electricity to come from alternative sources.  The bill would add any source that produces electricity with a carbon-free footprint, similar to a California law passed in September requiring 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.

Exelon Generation — which owns the Dauphin County Three Mile Island plant's Unit 1 reactor — must order fuel by June 1 or begin an irreversible decommissioning process. The company will not prepare for a refuel without new policy in place.

Nuclear energy sources produce 93 percent of the state's zero-carbon electricity, so it should be put on equal footing with the 16 other environmentally beneficial energy sources included in the law.

Three Mile Island nuclear power plant

Three Mile Island nuclear power plant

Three Mile Island is the site of the nation's worst nuclear accident. In 1979, the plant's Unit 2 reactor experienced a partial meltdown. Exelon owns and operates only the Unit 1 reactor.

Market prices set by regional grid operator PJM Interconnection are based on gas and don't account for bottom-line costs borne by nuclear operators. In 2004, gas prices were high, and no one anticipated them to drop so low.

Illinois, New Jersey and New York also recently approved subsidies for nuclear power

Exelon made $3.77 billion in net profits in 2017 for its combined operations of 13 nuclear plants — including two others in the state, according to its most recent stockholder report.

The state Legislature's Nuclear Energy Caucus believes updating the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act is the best option for keeping plants open and protecting job retention.

Exelon employs more than 600 at Three Mile Island. 

The bipartisan nuclear caucus, co-chaired by four legislators, including Aument and Mehaffie, released a report in November showing that losing nuclear plants would cost the state about $4.6 billion annually.

Governor Tom Wolf is worried about the workers at possibly affected plants and wants to do what he can to help them, but is looking forward to reviewing the legislation and is refraining from comment before seeing the exact language.

FirstEnergy Corp.'s Beaver Valley plant is due to close in 2021. Almost 25 percent of the state's nuclear generating capacity would be lost if both plants close prematurely. Nuclear accounts for 42 percent of the state's electricity production, and Pennsylvania's other three plants are facing negative market conditions. (York Dispatch, 2/22/2019)

EHJ President Receives New York City Proclamation

On November 14, 2018 the New York City Council presented EHJ President Norris McDonald with a proclamation recognizing his environmental work.

Councilwoman Inez Barron nominated McDonald for the proclamation. Councilwoman Barron introduced environmental justice legislation that drafted by McDonald and was passed by the council and signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017.

The videos below capture the moment.


Indian Point Gets NRC License Renewal

The two operating units at Indian Point Energy Center, Unit 2 and Unit 3, received their renewed operating licenses on September 17, 2018 from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), ending more than 11 years of regulatory review. Plant owner Entergy (NYSE: ETR) had applied for the licenses in April 2007.

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The receipt of the renewed operating licenses does not change the schedule for the retirement of the Indian Point units in accordance with a 2017 settlement agreement between Entergy and New York State. Under the settlement agreement, Unit 2 will shut down by April 30, 2020 and Unit 3 by April 30, 2021. Entergy cited sustained, lower wholesale power prices as the main factor in its decision to enter into the settlement agreement and shut down the Indian Point units.

The renewed federal licenses permit Unit 2 to operate until April 30, 2024 and Unit 3 to operate until April 30, 2025. The decision to seek renewed licenses that terminate in that timeframe was agreed to by all parties to the 2017 settlement agreement and is intended to allow for limited, continued operations of one or both units – if agreed to by both New York State and Entergy – in the event of unexpected and severe disruptions of the regional electric grid. Entergy does not have any expectation that either unit will run beyond its scheduled shutdown in 2020 and 2021. In February 2017, Entergy filed with the NRC a Notification of Permanent Cessation of Power Operations (Docket Nos. 50-247 and 50-286) certifying that it has decided to permanently cease power operations by those dates.

Entergy concluded the final refueling and maintenance outage at Unit 2 in April of this year, investing tens of millions of dollars to ensure continued safety and reliability. Entergy will conduct the final refueling and maintenance outage at Unit 3 in the spring of 2019. Both Indian Point units remain under the NRC’s normal safety ov ersight, to which Entergy remains committed. (Entergy)

Oyster Creek Closes

The oldest operating commercial nuclear power facility in the nation, Oyster Creek Generating Station, .closed on September 17, 2018 at noon. It operated for the past 49 years and now the plants owner, Exelon, will remove the reactor’s fuel supply and store it safely in the station’s used fuel pool.

Oyster Creek

Oyster Creek

Oyster Creek began commercial operation on Dec. 23, 1969 and has since produced almost 200 million megawatt-hours of carbon-free electricity, enough to power about 600,000 homes for nearly a half-century with virtually no greenhouse gas emissions. Along the way, it’s estimated that the station and its employees pumped more than $3 billion into the local economy, including wages, taxes, charitable contributions and local purchasing. Since 1969, Oyster Creek has offset more than 140 million metric tons of carbon, the equivalent of nearly 31 million cars.

In February 2018, Exelon Generation announced Oyster Creek would permanently shut down this fall at the end of its current operating cycle. Exelon Generation was required to close Oyster Creek no later than December 2019 as part of an agreement with the State of New Jersey. 

In July, Exelon Generation announced a conditional sale of Oyster Creek to Holtec International, a global leader in used nuclear fuel management technologies. The transaction is expected to close in 2019, pending license transfer approval from the NRC. Once the sale is completed, Holtec International will manage all site decommissioning and restoration activities with a goal of full decommissioning within eight years. 

About 300 of Oyster Creek’s employees will be staying at Oyster Creek for decommissioning with Exelon Generation and, ultimately, Holtec. Other employees are moving to other roles within the Exelon family of companies, while some have elected to retire or move on to other opportunities outside the company. (Exelon)

California Passes Law To Replace Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power With Renewables

Diablo Canyon

Diablo Canyon

Last summer, state regulators approved a plan to close Diablo Canyon, California’s last nuclear reactor. That plan also slashed hundreds of millions of dollars for worker retraining and community support — and failed to require that Pacific Gas & Electric seek out carbon-free resources to replace the facility.  

SB 1090which passed the state Senate in May and this week was approved by the State Assembly on a 67-to-1 vote would restore that funding and ensure that the plant’s 2.2 gigawatts of always-on, carbon-neutral electricity will come from a portfolio of greenhouse-gas-free resources.  Gov. Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign the bill.  He will sign the bill into law.

SB 1090 would restore about $85 million in community support funding, along with about $89 million in funding for worker retraining and retention that was stripped from the plan by a California Public Utilities Commission decision in January. 

But the decision also drew condemnation from the same coalition of environmental, community and labor groups that reached the 2016 settlement agreement with PG&E, which set the original terms for helping the San Luis Obispo region recover from the loss of jobs and tax revenue to come when the plant closes by 2025.  

The new legislation also restores a key piece of the 2016 settlement agreement that was left out of the CPUC’s decision in January — a requirement that Diablo Canyon’s energy and capacity must be replaced with a portfolio of greenhouse-gas-free resources. 

Southern California Edison was forced to close the power plant in 2013, and the CPUC instructed the utility and San Diego Gas & Electric to seek out a large portion of the resources needed to replace it from zero-carbon resources, including hundreds of megawatts of distributed energy.  (Green Tech Media, 8/24/2018)