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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Long-anticipated legislation to pump hundreds of millions of ratepayer dollars into Pennsylvania’s five nuclear power plants is being introduced.

Monday’s bill unveiling could usher in heated debate over whether the plants deserve what critics call a bailout.

The debate in Pennsylvania’s Capitol will run up against a June 1 deadline. That’s when Three Mile Island’s owner, Chicago-based Exelon, says it’ll start shutting down the financially struggling plant that was the site of a terrifying partial meltdown in 1979.

MIDDLETOWN, PA – MARCH 28: The Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant is seen in the early morning hours March 28, 2011 in Middletown, Pennsylvania. (Photo Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)

The plan’s sponsor, Rep. Thomas Mehaffie, projects it’ll cost ratepayers around $500 million a year, or the average household $1.77 a month.

Mehaffie says that cost pales in comparison to the multibillion-dollar hit to Pennsylvania’s economy if the plants shut down.

But opponents say most of Pennsylvania’s nuclear power plants are profitable.

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