The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has voted 4-1 to approve an exemption for some emergency planning requirements for the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.
The commissioners’ votes and comments were collected during the past couple weeks, and posted Monday to the NRC website. Commissioner Jeff Baran cast the sole vote against the exemption.
Power company Exelon requested the exemption from the federal agency’s requirements to have dedicated off-site emergency preparedness planning, including emergency planning zones. Staff at the NRC recommended approval in May.
The exemption covers both reactors at Three Mile Island: Exelon-owned Unit 1, which was retired on Sept. 20, 2019, and FirstEnergy-owned Unit 2, which has not operated since partially melting down in 1979. Exelon manages emergency preparedness for the two reactors.
In their comments, commissioners said the facility poses a reduced hazard following the end of operations at Unit 1 and transfer of its used fuel into a cooling pool.
In his written statement, new Commissioner Christopher Hanson noted that 18 reactor-decommissioning projects elsewhere have received similar exemptions to emergency preparedness planning. “I am convinced by the technical bases underlying the staff’s ultimate determination, which demonstrate that a significant reduction in the risk of large radiological release is achieved as the site transitions from operation to decommissioning status, in part due to the longer response time available for operators to implement mitigation actions, if needed.”
However, Baran wrote that the Federal Emergency Management Agency believes advance planning for the off-site parts of emergencies would reduce the confusion and complications in dealing with a crisis as it is occurring.
FirstEnergy hopes later this year to sell its reactor to nuclear services firm EnergySolutions, which would assume full responsibility for decommissioning through its TMI-2 Solutions LLC subsidiary. The Exelon reactor will be placed in SAFSTOR mode, under which final decommissioing can be delayed for up to 60 years.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article misstated plans by Exelon and FirstEnergy Corp. for their respective reactors at the Three Mile Island facility.