ANS, others throw weight behind bill to aid troubled Illinois nuclear plants

May 26, 2021, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A large group of nuclear and nuclear-friendly organizations, including the American Nuclear Society, sent a letter on May 24 to Illinois lawmakers urging them to pass the Climate Union Jobs Act (CUJA) before the legislature adjourns at the end of this month.

Among its provisions, the bill would create 74 million megawatt-hours of carbon mitigation credits for Exelon’s Braidwood, Byron, Dresden, and LaSalle nuclear plants. The Clinton and Quad Cities plants, which participate in Illinois’s zero-emission credit program, would not be eligible. (In August of last year, Exelon Generation, owner and operator of all six nuclear plants in Illinois, announced that it would close Byron and Dresden without state support of some kind, adding that Braidwood and LaSalle were also imperiled.)

CUJA is one of several clean energy bills currently under consideration by the General Assembly.

The bill was sponsored by Sens. Sue Rezin (R., 38th Dist.) and Michael Hastings (D., 19th Dist.) and Reps. Marcus C. Evans Jr. (D., 33rd Dist.), Jay Hoffman (D., 113th Dist.), and Lawrence Walsh Jr. (D., 86th Dist.).

Not measuring up: The letter also references the Consumers and Climate First Act, a measure proposed by Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker, stating that while it “recognizes the importance of nuclear energy and the need to keep these plants operating,” it “fails to offer adequate support for Byron and Dresden.”

The Pritzker bill would provide compensation to Exelon at $1.00/MWh ($19 million per year) for Byron and $3.50/MWh ($52 million per year) for Dresden from 2021 through 2025. Payments in any of those years would be subject to an independent audit to determine the financial status of the plants. Also, if the audit finds that the plants don’t require compensation at the stated rates to remain viable, payments would be reduced to the level of assistance necessary.

From the letter: “Losing Byron and Dresden increases annual greenhouse gas emissions by over 26 million tonnes CO2e. Further, attempting to completely decarbonize Illinois with solar and wind would necessitate a massive encroachment on arable lands and generate an inordinate amount of e-waste. Lastly, reaching decarbonization without employing firm carbon-free energy like nuclear will mean massive increases in costs to ratepayers.”

The letter is a product of the Climate Coalition’s Protect Nuclear Now campaign. Signatories included, among others, Craig Piercy, ANS’s executive director and chief executive officer; Amber Von Ruden, president of North American Young Generation in Nuclear; and Isuru Seneviratne, of Protect Nuclear Now.

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