June 26, 2009 / 8:28 PM / 9 years ago

Three Mile Island reactor gets environment OK

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission completed the environmental part of the license renewal proceeding for Exelon Corp’s 786-megawatt Unit 1 at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station in Pennsylvania, the NRC said in a release Friday.

The NRC concluded there were no environmental impacts that would preclude the reactor’s license renewal for an additional 20 years of operation.

The current license for Three Mile Island 1 expires April 19, 2014. A new license would extend the reactor’s operating life until 2034.

The sister unit at Three Mile Island near the Pennsylvania state capital of Harrisburg created worldwide headlines in 1979 when it partially melted down in the worst U.S. nuclear power accident.

The accident made Three Mile Island synonymous with the dangers of nuclear power and helped stop expansion of the U.S. nuclear industry until the recent slow-moving “nuclear renaissance.”

Exelon, the biggest nuclear power operators in the United States, did not own Three Mile Island at the time of the accident.

Since 2000, when the NRC approved its first 20-year license renewal, the Commission has granted new licenses for 54 reactors. The agency is now evaluating 12 applications, some for multiple units, including Three Mile Island.

Exelon filed for the renewal in January 2008. It usually takes the NRC about 22 months (November 2009) to make a decision without a hearing and about 30 months (July 2010) with a hearing. There were no hearings requested and none granted on the Three Mile Island application.

The NRC uses the renewal process to determine how an operator will manage the aging of a reactor. It is a two-step process, including a safety and environmental review.

The publication of the final environmental impact statement ends the environmental review.

On the safety front, the NRC expects to issue the safety evaluation report in July.

The Three Mile Island 1 reactor, which entered service in 1974, is located in Middletown in Dauphin County about 10 miles southeast of Harrisburg.

One megawatt powers about 800 to 1,000 homes in Pennsylvania.

Exelon, of Chicago, owns and operates more than 38,000 MW of generating capacity, markets energy commodities, and transmits and distributes electricity to about 5.4 million customers in northern Illinois and southeast Pennsylvania and natural gas in the Philadelphia area.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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