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Crews in training to remove last of fuel from Three Mile Island Unit 2

  • Rachel McDevitt
Frank Eppler presents to the TMI-2 Community Advisory Panel on Jan. 18, 2024.

Rachel McDevitt / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Frank Eppler presents to the TMI-2 Community Advisory Panel on Jan. 18, 2024.

Crews are preparing to remove the last bits of fuel from Three Mile Island’s Unit 2 reactor.

TMI-2 partially melted down nearly 45 years ago. After that, 99% of the fuel on site was removed to Idaho before the site was put into a state of long-term storage.

Utah-based Energy Solutions took control of the site in 2020, via its subsidiary TMI-2 Solutions.

Frank Eppler, TMI-2 deputy project director, says the remaining 1% of fuel is the hardest to get out. It also means the site has higher radiation levels than any other retired nuclear plant in the country, so the company has to move carefully.

The Department of Environmental Protection monitors radiation levels in air and water near the plant; regulators say there have been no unusual levels in the last year.

Eppler told a recent meeting of the TMI-2 Community Advisory Panel that the company has collected pictures, video and radiation data from inside the plant using drones and a robotic dog.

That information is directing how cleanup can move forward. Eppler said they’ve bought remote-controlled equipment that will be used to dismantle the plant and remove fuel. Crews are training on it using mock-ups.

“We’d rather do it outside where they can take their time. They can learn on the equipment, practice the equipment, and that helps us a lot [to] enhance our safety,” Eppler said.

Crews have started enlarging an entrance to the plant that is used for moving equipment in and out. The round hatch was uncovered and crews used special tools to cut through 8-foot-thick concrete. They plan to raise the height of the opening to 25 feet.

Removing the fuel is slated to last until 2029.

In that time, the company also plans to put up a new building to process removed fuel and prepare to ship it to a storage site in Utah. It will also build a storage facility at the site to house some fuel until the federal government eventually takes possession of it.

After 2029, TMI-2 Solutions will enter “phase 2,” which is a more routine decommissioning process for nuclear plants.

“Once we get to what we call a traditional plant, we will have the ability to go less remote. But it will always be a balance of safety and those concerns and keeping our staff in the right position,” Eppler said.

Eppler noted the planned schedule may change as they learn more about the plant. All changes must be approved by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Amy Snyder with the NRC said most of the remaining fuel is in the plant’s basement. To complete the clean-up, the entire building needs to be torn down.

Joe Lynch, who handles regulatory affairs for Energy Solutions, said they are working with historic preservation groups to see what could be saved from the site of the country’s worst nuclear disaster.

The Community Advisory Panel has two openings and is accepting nominations until Feb. 15. Board chair Marie-Louise Abram said nominations can be sent to her at or to Hannah Pell at

The panel is a volunteer group of community members whose goal is to help the public understand the decommissioning plan and give feedback to TMI-2 Solutions. The next meeting is scheduled for April 23.

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