Agreeing to a settlement, state regulators are no longer challenging a plan that could lead to the dismantling of Three Mile Island’s Unit 2 reactor — the site of the historic 1979 partial meltdown.
Still, a regional watchdog continues to press concerns about the plan, which he worries could lead to environmental or financial disaster at the now-defunct power plant just north of Conoy Township.
“We are disappointed, but you fight on,” said Eric Epstein of the Harrisburg-based Three Mile Island Alert watchdog group.
Last week, officials at the state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed they’d entered an agreement related to the proposed transfer of Unit 2 ownership from FirstEnergy to TMI-2 Solutions, a subsidiary of Utah-based EnergySolutions, which aims to dismantle the reactor.
It’s an aim that was questioned earlier this spring by DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell, as well as Epstein, who filed concerns with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the regulatory body tasked with approving or denying the ownership transfer and decommissioning.
In part, those concerns centered on the potential threat radioactive waste on the island in the Susquehanna River. They also included fears that rate-payer funded accounts will not have enough money to cover the cost of decommissioning.
Both are addressed in the settlement, which stipulates that quarterly reports — “suitable for public disclosure” — will be made by TMI-2 Solutions to DEP officials.
Included within reports must be information about clean up progress, radioactive waste generation and environmental monitoring. TMI-2 Solutions officials also must share financial information, including project costs, account balances and an accounting of money spent on unplanned expenses.
That’s all in addition to providing public insight by setting up a Decommissioning Project Community Advisory Panel made up of local residents and government officials, as well as a representative of TMI-2 Solutions.
DEP officials withdrew their previous challenge as part of the agreement.
It’s a settlement applauded by both FirstEnergy and EnergySoultions officials.
“FirstEnergy is pleased to have reached a settlement with DEP related to the decommissioning of TMI-2,” spokeswoman Jennifer Young said.
And EnergySolutions spokesman Mark Walker offered a statement: “TMI-2 Solutions will keep our regulators and the public fully informed throughout the decommissioning ... . We welcome DEP’s oversight and ... will establish a Citizens Advisory Committee to inform the public and our neighbors.”
According to Epstein, the settlement does little to ease his concerns, including about transparency. He said settlement negotiations were conducted out of public view and some information is hidden behind nondisclosure agreements.
“There is not a lot there,” he said of the settlement.
The settlement agreement does not mean the ownership transfer is automatically approved. The transfer application is still being reviewed, said Diane Screnci, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman.
She also confirmed that Epstein’s concerns are being considered as part of that review.
Epstein said he and his group will continue to press their concerns, appealing decisions if necessary.