Local leader speaks out to keep Byron nuclear plant open

December 14, 2020, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe


An Illinois lawmaker is hopeful that legislation is coming in the state that would benefit nuclear power plants. “I believe we’re going to have an incentive program that will be in partisan legislation,” said Andrew Chesney, Illinois state representative for the 89th District.

Chesney’s comment was included in a video story that aired on a TV news channel in Rockford, Ill. The news story focused on the negative financial impact that would result if the Byron nuclear power plant were to close in 2021.

Early closing: Plant operator Exelon Generation had announced in August that the two-unit Byron plant, near Byron, Ill., would be permanently closed in September 2021, followed in November 2021 by the two-unit Dresden plant, located in Morris, Ill. Byron is licensed to operate for another 20 years, and Dresden, a much older facility, is licensed for another decade.

Exelon’s explanation: Byron and Dresden, despite being efficient and reliable plants, 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 Interconnection capacity auction.

Effects on the local community: Byron employs about 720 people and contributes more than $30 million annually in tax dollars to the community, which impacts much more than just the workers.

“Absent this income, you’re going to see a sizable amount of revenue that’s going to need to be generated to make up for the expected shortfall,”said Chesney, whose district includes the Byron plant. ”What would have to take place is an increase in property taxes.”

There also is the prospective job losses that have the community on edge. “There is a lot of uncertainty [about the plant’s closing], which obviously leads to 727 plant employees that are a little uneasy around the holidays, and they have every right to be,” Chesney noted.

Can the decisions be reversed? Illinois lawmakers would need to pass beneficial legislation to save the plants, according to Exelon. “There’s a short window this spring where decisions could be reversed if the right policy comes along,” Paul Dempsey, Byron station’s communications manager, said in the news report.

In 2016, following an announcement from Exelon regarding its intention to close its Clinton and Quad Cities plants, legislation ensuring their continued operation was signed into law by the Illinois governor at that time.

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