MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – Friday was a historic day for Central Pennsylvania. After years of financial struggle, Three Mile Island Unit 1 shut down around noon.
The iconic steam that has filled the Three Mile Island air for more than 40 years is slowly fading.
“It’s a sight that you’ve known for all of your life,” said Donald Robson, a Marietta resident who was at the closing.
“The plant benefits the surrounding areas,” said Donald Robson Jr., who is also from Marietta.
“It powered more than 830,000 homes and businesses,” said Dave Marcheskie, a Three Mile Island spokesman.
The closing comes after years of failed efforts to save the nuclear power plant. Exelon said it would close unless the state stepped in with a financial rescue plan.
“It was all avoidable,” said Mike Pries, a Dauphin County commissioner.
TMI’s unit 2 has not operated since the 1979 partial meltdown, which became known as the worst commercial nuclear accident in U.S. history.
The plant sparked controversy for years.
The group, Citizens Against Nuclear Bailouts, released a statement saying in part, “We are reminded that for-profit nuclear energy corporations can make business decisions without government bailouts.”
“They talk about immediate impacts and sending your kids to school but what about the future generations dealing with nuclear waste,” said Gene Stilp of No Nukes Pennsylvania. “We don’t want a filthy island in the middle of the river with nuclear waste forever.”
Still, the company and its employees contributed more than $3.5 billion to the local economy throughout the years.
The Londonderry Fire Company brought its truck to the closing.
“Just to let everybody know how big of a community contributor they are,” said Londonderry Fire Chief Bart Shellenhamer.
“I can’t tell you how sorry I am to the families, the workers, this community,” said Rep. Tom Mehaffie, whose dad helped build the plant.
The company held a gathering for employees to honor their decades of service.
Now, the decades-long, billion-dollar cleanup process begins. Over the next few weeks, the reactor’s fuel supply will be removed.
Exelon says all radioactive material should be gone by 2074. The company estimates the current 675 jobs will drop to around 300 next year, to 200 by 2021 and 50 by 2022.
Londonderry Township officials are concerned about their economic situation with the loss of that tax money, both from the plant and employees.
Three Mile Island gave the township a token of their appreciation for 45 years of the partnership since the township has been home to hundreds of plant employees.
“Hearing the stories from our families, their friends, who have to pick up roots, dislodge their families and move to other parts of the state, to other states,” said Anna Dale, a Londonderry Township supervisor.
The Londonderry Fire Company is working with the township to find new income. Over the years, Three Mile Island helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.