Activist reaches a compromise on TMI Unit 1, a realistic approach to meet energy challenges

Monday, May 26, 2008

Eric Epstein, who has made a career of keeping the various owners of the Three Mile Island nuclear plants on their toes, drew the right conclusion in choosing to make the best deal he could with Exelon Corp. rather than challenge the relicensing of TMI Unit 1.

While this editorial board also is hardly a fan of nuclear power, the reality is that we need safe nuclear power to get us through the twin challenges of energy scarcity, accompanied by high energy prices, and reducing carbon emissions. Nuclear energy currently supplies about 20 percent of the nation's electricity and does not itself produce carbon.

In exchange for Epstein not embarking on a legal challenge that would be costly, Exelon agreed to underwrite additional radioactive monitoring in the area, increase donations to local community groups and first responders, and commit not to store nuclear waste from other reactors on the island. In what the anti-nuclear activist views as the most important element of this agreement, Exelon said it would not oppose the decommissioning of the crippled Unit 2 reactor as long as it didn't impede the operation of Unit 1.

Epstein indicated he will push to have First Energy Corp., owner of Unit 2, decommission the plant that was the scene of the 1979 accident. In 2006, that was projected to cost more than $800 million, of which $559 million was in a trust fund.

The current plan is to leave that complicated and expensive chore until Unit 1 is retired, which could be decades away. If First Energy takes the position that Unit 2 poses no harm in its current state, Epstein said he may seek to have the reactor declared a radioactive waste site, which arguably would establish that the remains of the worst commercial nuclear accident in U.S. history has value and should be taxed accordingly.

It's clear that Epstein is determined to continue to make nuclear power a topic of interest, while keeping TMI in the public mind, which is as it should be.

Source: The Patriot-News