BYRON – The familiar sight of steam rising from the Byron Generating Station continues, although it is down to rising from one tower as the station refuels.
With Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signing a new energy bill that was favorable to nuclear plants into law on Sept. 15, the Byron Station will continue to operate. It’s owner, Exelon Generation, had threatened to close the station on Sept. 13 without the new bill.
“I was both excited and relieved to watch the Illinois Senate provide a concurrence vote in favor of SB2408,” said Erin Folk, executive director of the Oregon park District and part of FAIRCOM (Fair Assessment Information Resource Committee). “Local taxing bodies, state legislators, community members and so many others have spent the past year working together for a common goal and our efforts paid off. Nuclear energy not only creates the opportunity for clean energy, but it saves jobs, stabilizes the local economy and allows taxing bodies to continue to provide the services our residents have come to rely on.”
The same day the Illinois Senate passed the bill, Exelon released a statement saying the Byron and Dresden stations would be refueled and not shut down. Dresden was scheduled to be closed later this year.
“We commend the governor, the General Assembly, our partners at IBEW Local 15 and the coalition of labor leaders and members who worked so hard to pass this roadmap for building our economy and addressing the climate crisis by investing in clean energy in a way that ensures that jobs and environmental benefits are shared equitably,” said Christopher Crane, president and CEO of Exelon. “The new policy offers a better future for the employees who have run these plants at world-class levels, the plant communities that we are privileged to serve and all Illinoisans eager to build a clean-energy economy that works for everyone.”
Todd Tucker, executive director of the Byron Forest Preserve District, said that not only are the nuclear plants needed to reach clean energy goals, but they are economic engines for the local economy.
“It’s paramount for our agency,” he said. “It’s paramount for our taxpayers, our schools.”
As one of the local officials dedicated to keeping the plant open, Tucker said the grassroots effort to keep the Byron plant open certainly helped.
“You can’t lay back and act like it’s going to happen anyway and not do anything,” he said.
The new bill was signed more than a year after Exelon announced the two plants would close. The Byron plant provides about 700 jobs as well as millions in local tax revenues.
The Byron CUSD #226 paid for the economic impact study, and it showed that about 74 percent of the district’s revenue comes from the Byron Station.
The study showed that the Byron Station’s direct contribution to the regional economy (GDP) is estimated to be more than $288 million. That is 1.6 percent of the total GDP of the region. For the Ogle County, Byron Station’s total contribution to the economy is estimated to be $338 million; 17 percent of the county’s total GDP.