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Visitors flock to Three Mile Island open house; will it be one of the last at the nuclear facility?

By Phyllis Zimmerman Special to the Press & Journal
Posted 9/8/17

If visitors’ comments at Three Mile Island Generating Station’s Community Information Night are any indication, locals don’t want to see the facility close as scheduled in 2019.

“I …

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Visitors flock to Three Mile Island open house; will it be one of the last at the nuclear facility?

Posted

If visitors’ comments at Three Mile Island Generating Station’s Community Information Night are any indication, locals don’t want to see the facility close as scheduled in 2019.

“I work here. I’m still hoping that legislation will bail them out,” said engineer Ross Shacklett of Mount Joy, who attended Community Information Night with wife Katie and son Ryan, 14 months. “I have a young family here. I’d like to stay in this area.”

Three Mile Island is scheduled to shut down by September 2019 if it doesn’t receive a state or federal bailout that would provide a subsidy for TMI and other nuclear power plants similar to what state government now provides to other clean power generators, TMI’s parent company announced on May 30. TMI has been operating at an economic loss and has not made a profit in the last five years, according to previous statements made by Exelon, TMI’s owner.

“I think it’s a shame. It’s too bad we’re even having this discussion (about the closure),” said TMI plant operator Joe Kulasinsky of Hershey, who took the event’s public bus tour of Three Mile Island

Jonathan Grove, who’s worked as TMI’s employee concern representative for 16 years, led the evening’s bus tours through the island’s north side, where the generating plant is located, and its bucolic south side comprising 250 undeveloped acres.

Grove took time to point out the conservation measures TMI employees undertake on a voluntary basis for the island’s undeveloped portion, such as overseeing 30 or 40 bluebird houses, 40 wood duck boxes, and a bunker that accommodates up to 600 bats. The area is habitated by hundreds of deer, amphibians, birds, and other forms of wildlife.

Other employee conservation efforts include a colony of pine trees planted at the recommendation of the state Game Commission, Grove noted.

Grove said that island conservation efforts will not continue if the generating plant closes because it’s all done by employees on a voluntary basis. However, he refrained from commenting on a plant closure in 2019.

Company spokesman Dave Marcheskie said he didn’t want to comment on a plant shutdown as he worked at a visitors’ booth. The evening’s turnout was “really good,” he said, counting more than 300 visitors just during the second hour of the three-hour event.

“Tonight, we’re focusing on giving out information,” Marcheskie said. “Really, we’re here to talk about our operations to the public. We have 675 hardworking, dedicated (employees) who come through our doors every day.”

Bryan Rheem of York County was enjoying complimentary snacks inside TMI’s training center after touring the facilities with his family. He noted a plant closure as being a “mixed situation.”

“Our country has neglected disposal of nuclear waste and while it’s a small quantity, it’s also very dangerous. Unfortunately, it’s an otherwise green fuel that provides good jobs for the economy,” Rheem said. “So, if the free market doesn’t support the purchase of electric, that’s the decision of the free market.

Mary Leisey and her grandson, Greyson Albert, were in one of the early groups to tour the plant simulator, and Greyson was selected to lead the demonstration of how to shut down the plant in the event of an emergency.

With the possibility of this being one of the last open houses hosted by TMI, Leisey said “it’s very sad.”

“TMI has been a good community neighbor to Middletown.” Leisey said.

“It’s sad because they’ve always got great events and they do very well,” Albert said. “It’s a nice event. I love coming to it.”

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