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SHIPPINGPORT (KDKA) — Eight hundred jobs could be lost as FirstEnergy has started the process to shut down the Beaver Valley nuclear power plant in Shippingport, but those job losses are a long way off.

FirstEnergy says it’ll take them three years to shut down the plant, but the announcement is filled with a lot of qualifying words like “anticipate,” “forecast” and “potential.”

While it’s a devastating announcement for this area, it’s not a done deal yet.

It’s 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, sitting on 1,000 acres — two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors built in the 1970s. But now comes the announcement many were fearing.

FirstEnergy says, “The market challenges facing these units are beyond their control.” They add that “the decision … is very difficult and in no way a reflection on the dedicated, hard-working employees.”

Community reaction is predictable.

“People have been on pins and needles about the anticipation that this could happen, this kind of announcement,” Jack Mainning, of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce, said. “Obviously it’s a significant employer and a significant part of the economy of Beaver County.”

The energy company cites less demand and lower prices making nuclear energy less competitive, but they hold out a glimmer of hope, saying, “We call on elected officials in Ohio and Pennsylvania to consider policy solutions … solutions that will make it feasible to continue to operate these plants in the future.”

“There’ve been several bills that they’re trying to advance that get some regulatory relief and some financial incentives to keep the facility open,” Mainning said.

What does that mean? They’re trying to get regulations passed that would allow them to make customers pay a surcharge for energy that comes from a source with zero emissions.

There’s little doubt losing this plant will have a huge impact. Eight hundred jobs, millions in taxes and stuff you wouldn’t even consider.

“The FirstEnergy folks, employees and corporate accounts, accounted for 15 percent of the United Way’s total gross last year,” Mainning said.

There’s one other possibility: someone could come along and buy the plant to keep it operating.