Friday, March 13, 2009

Experts Reflect On Three Mile Island, Nuclear Power

A careful look at the run-up to and aftermath of the accident on March 28, 1979 at TMI should put to rest whatever enthusiasm for the technology still exists, Mr. Epstein said. Even before the meltdown, he said, it became clear TMI’s backers had downplayed its ultimate costs.
“The trend is here, the trend is clear and the trend is unequivocal,” Mr. Epstein said, asserting that nuclear-generating facilities are always over budget and always behind schedule. Electricity provider Metropolitan Edison began building TMI Unit 1 in 1968, publicly anticipating a cost of $183 million. Its construction concluded two years behind schedule and cost an eventual $400 million before coming online in 1974. TMI Unit 2, in Londonderry Township near Harrisburg, began operation in late December 1978, a mere three months before the accident necessitated its shutdown. Metropolitan Edison estimated it would cost $206 million; its building expenses eventually totaled $700 million as it was completed five years behind schedule. During the brief time it functioned, most of the electricity it generated didn’t go to surrounding communities. Much of it was conveyed to western Pennsylvania and New Jersey. One thousand people once worked at TMI Unit 2, while no one works at what is now only a remnant of a generation plant that, according to Mr. Epstein, won’t get cleaned up completely until the next century. He placed total cleanup costs at $805 million, noting that electricity ratepayers are taking on most of the expense. What implication does Mr. Epstein believe this should have for American energy policy? “Our position is this,” he said of TMIA, “We don’t believe you should be building nuclear power plants until you clean up the mess you already created.”
The Bulletin

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