Nuke plant decision coming down to the wire


While a new energy legislation aimed at saving the Byron nuclear power station makes its way through the process in Springfield, Exelon said the plant is scheduled to run out of fuel and close on Sept. 13.

The Illinois Senate passed SB 18 in the early morning hours of Sept. 1, which includes language that would keep the Byron and Dresden stations open. The legislation now moves to the state House for consideration. If the House passes the legislation, the bill would head back to the Senate for a concurrence vote.

In the Senate, local State Sen. Brian Stewart voted against the bill.

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

“I am still hopeful,” said Erin Folk, executive director of the Oregon park District and part of FAIRCOM (Fair Assessment Information Resource Committee). “All sides will never 100 percent agree with the terms, but I do feel the current language is a good compromise for all parties.”

For its part, Exelon Generation is also still hopeful an agreement can be reached, a spokesman said.

“While we currently have no choice but to continue preparing for their premature retirement, we have established off-ramps that will allow us to reverse that decision if lawmakers pass legislation with enough time for us to safely refuel the plants,” said Paul Adams, senior manager for corporate communications with Exelon. “To be clear, Byron will run out of fuel and will permanently shut down on Sept. 13 unless legislation is enacted. We have been clear that we cannot refuel Byron on Sept.13 or Dresden in November absent policy changes”

Exelon announced on Aug. 27, 2020 that it intends to retire its Byron and Dresden stations this year. On July 28 this year, the company filed Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activity Reports (PSDARs) with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, detailing long-term site restoration plans for both stations after they shut down.

In Springfield, policymakers have been working on legislation that would preserve all four of the nuclear 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 for months.

“A recent analysis found that achieving 100 percent clean energy without the nuclear plants in northern Illinois would cost consumers $80 billion more between 2022 and 2035,” Adams said. “Losing the nuclear plants also will reverse the progress Illinois has made in reducing carbon emissions. In fact, if Byron and Dresden close, air pollution will immediately increase by the equivalent of adding 4.4 million cars to the road as fossil plants ramp up production to replace their carbon-free energy.”

At press time, it was unknown what action the House would take, but Adams made it clear Exelon would fight for the future of the stations until the end.

“We will never stop fighting to preserve our state’s nuclear plants, knowing that the minute they close our customers will experience dirtier air and higher energy costs,” he said.