Exelon to early retire nuclear plants critical to Illinois energy security


Exelon Generation will retire its Byron Generating Station and Dresden Generating Station in fall 2021.

The retirement will result in the loss of four nuclear generation units that together supply clean, zero-emissions energy to more than four million homes and businesses in northern Illinois.

Byron, located just outside Byron, Ill., will close in September 2021, and Dresden, located in Morris, Ill., will close in November 2021.

Dresden is licensed to operate for another decade and Byron for another 20 years.

The two nuclear plants employ more than 1,500 full-time employees and 2,000 supplemental workers during refueling outages, most from local union halls.

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The plants pay nearly $63 million in taxes annually to support local schools, fire, police and other services and supply 30% of Illinois’ carbon-free energy and are essential to meeting the state’s goal to achieve 100% clean energy.

Despite being among the most efficient and reliable units in the nation’s nuclear fleet, Dresden and Byron face revenue shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars because of declining energy prices and market rules that allow fossil fuel plants to underbid clean resources in the PJM capacity auction, even though there is broad public support for sustaining and expanding clean energy resources to address the climate crisis.

The plants’ economic challenges are further exacerbated by a recent FERC ruling that undermines longstanding state clean energy programmes and gives an additional competitive advantage to polluting energy sources in the auction.

Studies have shown that when nuclear plants close, plants that burn fossil fuels operate much more often, increasing harmful carbon and air pollution, especially in disadvantaged communities.

In January 2019, Illinois committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the targets set in the Paris climate agreement. While the state is currently at roughly 85% progress towards the 2025 goal, if the four economically challenged nuclear plants (Dresden, Byron, Braidwood and LaSalle) prematurely retire, Illinois will drop to only 20% of the way toward the goal. Electric sector emissions in Illinois will increase by 70%.

Christopher Crane, president and CEO of Exelon, said: “Although we know in our heads that shutting down the uneconomic Illinois plants is necessary to preserve even more jobs elsewhere, our hearts ache today for the thousands of talented women and men that have served Illinois families for more than a generation and will lose their jobs because of poorly conceived energy policies.

“But we are only about a year away from shutdown and we need to give our people, the host communities, and regulators time to prepare.

“We recognise this comes as many of our communities are still recovering from the economic and public health impacts of the pandemic, and we will continue our dialogue with policymakers on ways to prevent these closures.

“To that end, we have opened our books to policymakers and will continue to do so for any lawmaker who wishes to judge the plants’ profitability.”