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Three Mile Island Generating Station will be retired early by September 30, 2019, Exelon Corp. announced today, unless policy reforms occur in the meantime.

The owner of Three Mile Island, Exelon, said operating costs for just one unit at the plant were high, further damaging Three Mile Island's financial viability in a time of competition from natural gas and renewable energies.

Other power generators that would benefit if the reactors shut down, however, have challenged NY and Illinois' nuclear payments in federal court, arguing the rules unfairly subsidize one fuel source in a federally administered competitive market and will boost ratepayer costs. Exelon wants Pennsylvania to give nuclear power the kind of preferential treatment given to energy sources such as wind and solar.

Thanks to stagnant power demand and cheap natural gas, capacity market prices in latest PJM auction cleared at about $76.50/MW-day for most of the grid, lower than analyst expectations and the $100/MW-day of last year's auction.

FirstEnergy Corp. has said it could decide next year to sell or close its three nuclear plants - Davis-Besse and Perry in OH and Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania.

Exelon said it will take a one-time charge of $65-110 million for 2017 for the early retirement of Three Mile Island, and accelerate about $1.0-1.1 billion in depreciation and amortization through the announced shutdown date.

Built during a golden age for nuclear power, Three Mile Island's Unit 1 went online in 1974 and Unit 2 in 1978, coughing steam into the air above its sliver of land in the Susquehanna River, about 10 miles from Harrisburg.

On March 28, 1979, the core of one of Three Mile Island's nuclear reactors partially melted down.

Experts have come to no firm conclusion about the health effects or the amount of radiation released, though government scientists have said the maximum individual dosage was not enough to cause health problems. No nuclear plant that was proposed after the accident has been successfully completed and put into operation.

NY and IL adopted rules in 2016 to provide payments to nuclear reactors to keep the units in service to help meet state carbon reduction goals and keep the jobs, taxes and fuel diversification the plants provide.

And its future seems to hang on whether or not Pennsylvania lawmakers enact policies favorable to the nuclear industry, something officials with Illinois-based Exelon favor, but which have already generated opposition among other players in the energy industry.

The low cost of electricity is being attributed to natural gas extraction from shale formations such as Pennsylvania's Marcellus region. They also note that nuclear is a carbon-free energy source, something that can't be said of natural gas or coal. Exelon said TMI provides more than $1 million in state property taxes and more than $300,000 in local community giving each year.