Today, the damaged Unit 2 reactor, now owned by Akron, Ohio–based FirstEnergy Corp., remains permanently shuttered, though the undamaged Unit 1 was switched back on in 1985 and continues to operate. The working reactor's operating license expires in 2014, and its current owner, Exelon Corp., has applied to renew the license for another 20 years.
Other robots were used in the Three Mile Island cleanup, but those built by Whittaker's group were the first to be utilized inside the reactor building. "The big thing about these machines is that they were mobile" at a time when robots typically were built to operate from fixed positions, such as those on factory floors, says Michael Pavelek II, another former Bechtel engineer, who was responsible for the robots' operation and is now executive director of the Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority, a landfill in Lebanon, Pa. "You couldn't put people in there safely. That was the huge advantage of these devices."
Soon the robotic effort will be preserved for posterity. To coincide with the 30th anniversary of the accident, The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, some 13 miles (20 kilometers) southeast of the plant plans to open a display featuring a version of the Rover and other items used in the Three Mile Island cleanup.