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Retiring TMI before its time is up: Could it happen?

If you’ve never been to Three Mile Island’s annual open house – the operators of the iconic nuclear power plant call it Community Information Night – you should go, because they are very informative, and the tours of the island and simulated control room are interesting.

We’re almost tempted to add a joke about the future of open houses at TMI in the wake of the plant’s failure to garner bids for its electric capacity in 2018-19 – has time made the plant obsolete? We shudder to think about the impact an early retirement of the reactor would have on the local economy with the loss of jobs.

No one was interested in TMI’s generating capacity during last month’s capacity auction by PJM Interconnection, which is the operator of the power grid that serves 13 states and the District of Columbia.

That fueled speculation that Exelon might close TMI before its license expires in 2034.

Exelon has issued a statement acknowledging that the lack of bids for 2018-19 capacity, and the revenue the sale of capacity would bring, is an “important consideration in a plant’s long-term viability,’’ but stressed that the auction result “is just one of several factors Exelon will use to make decisions’’ about the future of TMI, and two other Exelon nuclear plants that did not garner any bids.

Retiring TMI early would not only eliminate jobs, it would also create a gap in decommissioning funding, said Eric Epstein, chairman of TMI-Alert, the local nuclear power watchdog. And there’s another problem: What to do with the high-level radioactive waste in the reactor if there’s no money to transfer the waste somewhere else? “It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Three Mile Island does not become a permanent nuclear garbage site in the middle of the Susquehanna River,’’ he said.

What will happen? It’s uncertain. We hope Exelon can find a way to keep TMI a viable producer of power, which appears to be the best scenario for Middletown.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 September 2015 16:00

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An option for buiding a new electric substation?


Rain from Tropical Storm Lee pushed the Swatara Creek to historic and terrifying levels in 2011, flooding Middletown and damaging the borough’s electric substation nearby.

Thanks to a great effort by the borough’s electric department, the borough used its remaining substation on Spruce Street to preserve power throughout town, though the chances of it working were risky. Can you imagine if a section of the town went dark during the flood, much less the entire town? Thankfully, it didn’t happen.

Will the creek ever reach that height again? Who knows? Whether FEMA would fund future repairs is only part of the problem with which we’re left to grapple: If the substation was damaged by flooding in the future, could we again survive with electricity?

A developer has proposed to build Middletown a $11.5 substation out of harm’s way in the proposed Woodland Hills housing project on the north side of town if the borough would enter into a lease agreement that would provide the financing needed to build homes on the land. It could result in a profit for the borough – if the project is built as planned.

Instead of rolling the dice on Woodland Hills, however, there may be an option: Dauphin County is seeking a $197 million grant in a national competition judged by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to make communities more “resilient’’ after flooding and other natural disasters. How would the money be spent? There are no specific projects, a planning official told us. County representatives are holding a meeting at Middletown’s MCSO Building on Wednesday, Aug. 26 to glean information from local residents on the problems faced by past flooding.

So, we ask: Why not use some of the money, if it comes, for a Middletown substation? Certainly guaranteeing that a borough of more than 8,000 people would have electricity in the wake of a flood would make the county more “resilient.’’ And it’s a grant – it doesn’t have to be repaid by taxpayers or, in this case, electric customers in the borough (which is everyone).

If borough and county officials have already considered this, hooray! If not, we hope the possibility is raised by the borough at Wednesday’s meeting. It is a worthy project that would resolve a potentially frightening scenario in a future flood without burdening residents financially.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 August 2015 15:47

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Night Out: A night when Middletown shines bright


The most striking thing about Middletown’s annual Night Out celebration on Tuesday, Aug. 4 was the size of the crowd that filled Hoffer Park.

Officer Gary Rux, the Middletown police officer who organizes the anti-crime event for the police department, estimated attendance to be in the thousands, and we wouldn’t dispute it.

Middletown Night Out has grown into a major community get-together, a small-town celebration that not only gives residents a chance to meet their police officers, firefighters and EMTs but also to meet their neighbors.

Much of it – food, games, face painting, among other things – is donated, and staged by volunteers. Everyone turns out for it – cheerleading squads, dance schools, veterans' groups, churches, youth sports teams, charities and police and fire squads from the region are on hand, talking to visitors, performing routines, shaking hands.

You leave it feeling good about Middletown, and this year’s event was no exception. In fact, many people marveled at the size of the crowd this time. It was packed.

There were countless Middletown residents strolling through the park, taking it all in. What is surprising is that Middletown Night Out is attracting people from other communities who checked it out.

They saw Middletown at its best – friendly, close-knit, a town that revels in its neighborly atmosphere.

It’s impossible to leave Middletown Night Out feeling down about the town. The afterglow is so warm that residents from nearby communities want to feel it, too.

Middletown Night Out is proof of what Middletown can do when it works together toward a common goal.

Congratulations to all involved – and, if you saw the throng at Hoffer Park, you know the list is long.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 August 2015 15:35

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