Time Running Out For Plant Saves, Says Exelon

Scalding temperatures, including a near-record high for the planet, set this summer in Death Valley, battering storms, forest fires in the west and crumbling ice caps have yet to impress legislatures in Illinois as they have made little progress in pushing for a nuclear power support bill according to a state senator.

Byron NPPSue Rezin said “little movement” has been made since May on a bill that would keep the clean energy sources of Byron, Dresden, Braidwood, LaSalle, Clinton or Quad Cities power plants going, all of them threatened by premature closings due to what plant owner Exelon calls an unfair economic advantage enjoyed by fossil fuel burning plants.

Exelon announced this week that four of the plants it owns in the state, Byron, Dresden, Braidwood, and LaSalle have combined to provide close to 15,000 consecutive days of service despite rising challenges to the national grid, potential climate change catastrophes, and the increased need for reliability in the face of impending heat waves and storm activities.

The company is trying to put the message out loud and clear that the state government has little time left to pass a nuclear plant support bill before plants they own will have to shut down for economic reasons. The Byron plant is scheduled to close in September, while the Dresden plant is to close in November, the company has announced. These closures can be stopped with state action.

The company also said Monday its four Chicago-area plants are responsible for 28,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in annual economic benefits, which would be lost if those plants close.

Meanwhile, “with just weeks to go before the first of the plants permanently closes, policymakers continue working on legislation that would preserve 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.”

Stacked up against the Cal Ripken Jr.-like track record of continuous service, the state's solar power electricity production is viable only 20 percent of the time, while wind power operates 30 percent of the time. This compares with the “close to 100 percent” reliability of its nuclear plants.

“Powering Illinois with clean energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week is a hallmark of our zero-carbon nuclear fleet,” said Exelon Generation Chief Nuclear Officer Dave Rhoades.

The 15,000-day streak includes Byron (5000 consecutive days), Dresden (4,260), Braidwood (3,975), and LaSalle (1,603).

The consequences of closing are stark and frightening. “Losing Byron and Dresden will result in a cumulative increase in carbon dioxide emissions of more than 100 million metric tons over the next decade, even taking into account the increase in renewables that would occur under the proposed energy legislation,” Exelon said. “This is more than the entire volume of carbon dioxide emissions otherwise projected for northern Illinois over the same period.”

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