Exelon files to shut down Byron plant


Exelon Generation, owner and operator of the Byron and Dresden nuclear energy facilities, filed Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activity Reports (PSDARs) on July 28 with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, detailing long-term site restoration plans for both stations after they shut down this fall.

The filings are among the final steps in retiring the plants, which face revenue shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars due to low energy prices and market policies that give fossil fuel plants an unfair competitive advantage. Absent a legislative solution, these same market inequities will force the company to close its Braidwood and LaSalle nuclear facilities sometime in the next few years.

“It's disappointing Exelon is being forced to complete the regulatory procedures for deactivating the Byron and Dresden stations,” said Erin Folk, executive director of the Oregon park District and part of FAIRCOM (Fair Assessment Information Resource Committee). “Closing the Byron and Dresden stations will be devastating to our communities, residents, taxing bodies and our economy. The next 30 days are crucial. We need legislators from both parties to reconvene and work together to pass an energy bill that includes the continued operation of Illinois' nuclear fleet. “ 

In June, The Illinois Senate failed to come up with a Clean Energy Bill, with environmentalists and labor leaders far apart on the negotiations.

With just weeks to go before the first of the plants permanently closes, policymakers continue working on legislation that would preserve all four of the plants as part of a comprehensive plan to maintain and grow clean-energy jobs, keep energy bills affordable and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Exelon Generation announced on Aug. 27, 2020 that it intends to retire its Byron Generating Station and Dresden Generating Station in fall 2021.

Byron will close in September 2021. That would mean not only the loss of about 700 jobs, but it will also mean the loss of millions of dollars in taxes locally.

Paul Dempsey, Communications Manager of the Byron station, said that the station’s 2017 tax bill was more than $38 million. The taxes went to a variety of taxing bodies, including the Byron School District, Ogle County and the Byron Museum and Library District.

Gov. JB Pritzker has called for legislation that includes nearly $700 in subsidies over five years for the nuclear plants.

With the PSDARs complete, Exelon Generation is now preparing to issue job reduction notifications to employees impacted by the plant shutdowns. Staffing at the plants will fall from nearly 1,500 employees when the plant retirements were announced last August, to just 30-40 employees over the next 10 years.

With just weeks to go before the first of the plants permanently closes, policymakers continue working on legislation that would preserve all four of the plants as part of a comprehensive plan to maintain and grow clean-energy jobs, keep energy bills affordable and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Chicago-area plants support 28,000 direct and indirect jobs and contribute $3.5 billion annually to Illinois’ economy. Closing the two plants will have the immediate environmental impact equivalent to putting 4.4 million additional cars on the road, emitting carbon and other harmful sources of air pollution.

“With no signs of a breakthrough on clean energy legislation in Springfield, we have no choice but to take these final steps in preparation for shutting down the plants,” said Exelon Generation Chief Nuclear Officer Dave Rhoades. “We will never stop fighting for policies to preserve Illinois’ nuclear fleet, knowing that the minute these plants close our customers will experience dirtier air and higher energy costs. But with time running out, we must plan for the future and do everything we can to prepare our employees and the communities they serve for what lies ahead.”

As part of the decommissioning process, Exelon Generation has up to 60 years to restore Byron and Dresden, which includes transporting the stations’ used fuel to long-term storage, decontaminating and removing plant components and razing the remaining buildings.

PJM, the regional grid operator, has confirmed that both plants can retire without putting overall grid reliability at risk. However, the massive loss of in-state clean generation means Illinois will have to rely more on fossil energy located in environmental justice communities and in surrounding states to meet the needs of Illinois homes and businesses. Increased production from fossil plants will increase carbon and other harmful emissions and force Illinois consumers to support jobs in other states through their energy bills.

The PSDAR filing with the NRC is one of the few remaining regulatory milestones required before closing the plants. Byron is scheduled to shut down in September and Dresden in November.

 

Ogle County Life Editor Brad Jennings contributed to this story.

Advertisement

TRENDING RECIPE VIDEOS


Video News
More In Home