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Opponents of a nuclear bailout say the industry already received a handout during the 15-year transition to competitive wholesale markets, when the state allowed utilities to maintain capped electricity rates to recover their “stranded investments” — primarily the sunk costs of the expensive nuclear fleet.Peco Energy Co., an Exelon subsidiary, kept rates in place until the end of 2010, mostly to pay for its Limerick Generating Station in Montgomery County.It’s unclear when or in what form nuclear subsidies will be proposed, but it’s likely that electricity customers, not taxpayers, would be asked to pay the cost through higher rates.The nuclear industry, by far the largest producer of zero-carbon-emission electrical power, is facing a similar struggle nationwide as plans for new reactors get scrapped and existing plants battle to compete in states with deregulated power markets.Exelon Generation of Kennett Square, which owns the surviving Unit 1, on the right, says it will retire the plant in 2019 unless the state comes to the rescue.Pries says lawmakers need to “level the playing field” so that nuclear energy receives value for its emissions-free power similar to that given other renewable-energy resources.

“We’re not going to be able to cost-cut ourselves out of this situation we’re in,” said David Fein, an Exelon Corp. “There needs to be some policy changes to address the market flaws and market challenges we’re seeing.” Exelon and its allies have marshaled an arsenal of arguments about the dangers of allowing the plant to shut down: The loss of TMI’s million payroll; a reduction in local and state tax payments from the plants; and the environmental and competitive risks of losing a reliable source of emissions-free energy.

“If Pennsylvania doesn’t act in a similar way to Illinois and New York, I just wonder about the message that’s going to send to other states in the region that are grappling with the same issue, such as Ohio, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut,” he said.

Citizens Against Nuclear Bailouts, an advocacy group backed by large manufacturers and the gas industry, says that competitive wholesale electricity markets have served consumers well in the 21 years since they were adopted in Pennsylvania and should not be tinkered with.

11, 2001, terror attacks or the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

As with other nuclear reactors, the visible new security measures at Three Mile Island are impressive. The main employee parking lots were relocated about 200 yards from the plant entrance, separated by massive concrete barriers.

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