A Corporate History of Three Mile Island


Three Mile Island-1  (TMI-1) came on line in September 1974 at a cost of  $400 million. Legal intervention was conducted by the Environmental Coalition on Nuclear Power (ECNP) based in State College.


Three Mile Island-2  (TMI-2) came on line in December 1978, and was grossly  over budget and behind schedule. Legal intervention was conducted by  the ECNP  and Three Mile Island Alert (TMIA). The plant  had been online for just 90 days – or 1/120 of its expected operating life – before the March 1979, accident.  One billion dollars was spent to defuel the facility.  Three months of nuclear power production at TMI-2 has cost close to $2 billion dollars in construction and cleanup bills; or the equivalent of over $10.6  million for every day TMI-2 produced electricity. The above mentioned costs do not include nuclear decontamination and decommissioning or restoring the site to “Greenfield.


At the time of the Accident in March 1979, Three Mile Island units 1 and 2 were owned by three utilities operating in two states,  i.e., Metropolitan Edison (50 percent), Jersey Central Power & Light (25 percent) and Pennsylvania Electric (25 percent). The companies were organized under the General Public Utilities holding company umbrella. The operator of both plants was MetEd.


    Key Dates


• May 1968  Metropolitan Edison begins construction on Three Mile Island Unit 1. (TMI-1).  


• July 1969  Met-Ed begins construction on Unit 2 (TMI-2)


• September 1974 - Unit 1 goes online.


• December 1978: - Unit 2 goes online.


• March 28, 1979 - TMI-2 melts down.


• July 2, 1979 - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission ( NRC) orders the indefinite shutdown of TMI-1 until assurances are in place that the plant can be operated safely.


• March 25, 1980 - MetEd blames the plant’s designer, Babcock & Wilcox (B & W) for the TMI accident and sues B&W for $500 million.  MetEd also filed an unsuccessful $4 billion law suit against the NRC alleging that the agency’s negligence contributed to the TMI accident.


• September 1980 -  MetEd renames itself GPU Nuclear in a bid to disassociate itself from itself. MetEd continues operate, owning 50 percent of the plant.


• February 29, 1984 - A plea bargain between the Department of Justice and MetEd settles the Unit 2 leak rate falsification case. MetEd pleads guilty to one count, and pleads no contest to six counts of an 11-count indictment. 


The company also agrees to pay a $45,000 fine, and to establish a $1 million dollar interest-bearing account to be used by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. The settlement stipulates that the fines, emergency preparedness fund, and legal cost of the prosecution, will not be paid by GPU/MetEd rate share holders.


• July 1988 - GPU settles a class action suit challenging high utility rates, for $1.25 million.


• September 20, 1995 - The Pennsylvania Supreme Court  reverses a lower court’s decision, and sides with GPU in allowing the company to charge rate payers for the TMI-2 accident.


The decision ignores the financial facts of the case: TMI-2 was built at a cost to rate payers of $700 million and had been online for 90 days, or 1/120 of its planned operating lifetime, when the March 1979 accident began. One billion dollars have been spent to defuel the plant, which now lays in idle shutdown, a state the industry calls Post-Defueling Monitored Storage. 


• February 1997 - In their 1997 Annual Report,  GPU reports that the cost to decommission TMI-2 has doubled in four years. The original $200 million projection has been increased to $399 million for radioactive decommissioning. An additional $34 million will be needed for non-radiological decommissioning. The new funding “target” is $433 million – or a 110 percent increase in just 48 months.


• July 17, 1998 - AmerGen Energy announces that it reached an agreement with GPU to purchase TMI-1 for $100 million. The proposed sale includes $23 million for the reactor, and $77  million, payable over five years, for the nuclear fuel.      


• July 21, 1999 - GPU Nuclear receives permission form the NRC to reduce the insurance at TMI-2 from $1.06 billion to $50 million.


• December 20, 1999 - TMI-1’s license is transferred from GPU Nuclear to AmerGen. TMI-2 remains a GPU possession in placed in  Post-Defueling Monitored Storage in 1992. GPU contracts with AmerGen to maintain a skeletal staff presence at TMI-2. 


• August 9,  2000 - FirstEnergy Corp. and GPU announces a planned merger expected to be finalized by August 2001. FE would acquire GPU for approximately $4.5 billion. Ownership of TMI-2 and liability for 1,990 health-related law suits against GPU would be transferred to FirstEnergy. 

• November 2001 - TMI-2 is formally transferred from GPU Nuclear to FirstEnergy. GPU Nuclear retains the license for TMI-2 and is owned by FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company.


• September 5, 2002 - Exelon announced that it was putting its share (50 percent) of  AmerGen up for sale.  British Energy, which is bankrupt, owns the other 50 percent of AmerGen, and includes the following nuclear power plants: Clinton, Oyster Creek and Three Mile Island. The reported price tag is anywhere from $340 million to $600 million.


• December 23, 2003 - British Energy completes the sale of its 50 percent AmerGen interest to Exelon Generation shortly after receiving shareholder approval of the deal. Exelon was British Energy's (BE) partner in the AmerGen joint venture that bought three U.S. nuclear plants – Clinton, Oyster Creek and Three Mile Island-1. As expected, BE receives about $277 million prior to various adjustments. BE said it will pay a break fee of $8.29 million to FPL Group, following termination of the original sale agreement between BE and FPL after Exelon exercised its right of first refusal and matched FPL's offer to become the sole owner of the AmerGen plants (Platts Nuclear News).


• August 2008  - AmerGen is seeking to transfer the licenses for its nuclear power plants, including TMI-1, Oyster Creek and Clinton, to Exelon. If approved, the transfer would mean that Oyster Creek would officially be part of the Exelon fleet as opposed to a plant operating under the separate AmerGen corporate entity. 


TMI-2  Cleanup – date still unclear

The current radiological decommissioning cost estimate is $779 million and $26 million for non-radiological funds. The current amount in the decommissioning trust fund is $559 million, as of December 31, 2006


2034 - TMI’s owner when the license expires, unknown.