Three Mile Island to close 40 years after accident

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Three Mile Island’s meltdown triggered evacuations

A Pennsylvania power plant which triggered the worst nuclear disaster in US history is to close, its owner says.

Three Mile Island – which experienced a partial reactor meltdown in 1979, spawning nationwide protests – will shut in 2019.

Exelon Corp, which owns the facility, said the low cost of natural gas extraction had made nuclear-generated electricity unprofitable.

Since 2013, six nuclear reactors in the US have shut for economic reasons.

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Nuclear plants have closed before their licences expired in California, Florida, Nebraska, Vermont and Wisconsin, with more set to be decommissioned in the next several years.

The low cost of electricity is being attributed to natural gas extraction from shale formations such as in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus region.

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The Three Mile Island meltdown occurred on 28 March, 1979, alarming more than two million people who lived nearby and the city of New York 180 miles (300km) away.

A federal inquiry found no deaths or injuries were caused by the accident, though it dented public confidence in nuclear energy for years.

In 1994 a protester drove through the gates of Three Mile Island, causing the company to spend more than $1m (£777,000) on security upgrades.

Further upgrades were ordered after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.

Three Mile Island employees 675 people, supplies power to 800,000 homes, and pays more than $1m in state income taxes, according to the company.