Local pol goes digital to save Illinois nuclear plant

Demmer

Illinois State Representative Tom Demmer (R., Dixon) announced last week the creation of a website, savebyron.com, devoted to preventing the early closure of Exelon Generation’s Byron nuclear power plant.

According to the October 9 announcement, Demmer began working with the city of Byron, Ill.-based Wave Marketing to create the website following Exelon’s August decision to prematurely retire both the Byron plant and the Dresden nuclear plant, located in Morris, Ill., absent state legislation to aid the financially troubled facilities. Byron’s two pressurized water reactors are currently slated to cease operation in September of next year, followed in November by Dresden’s two boiling water reactors.

Letter from the CEO

Calling balls and strikes

Craig Piercy

As a not-for-profit scientific and professional organization, the American Nuclear Society’s raison d’être has always been the advancement of nuclear science and technology. While many among our diverse ranks may see themselves as advocates, it is important to recognize that ANS the organization will never take the place of industry trade associations like the Nuclear Energy Institute or the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council. No, we will always be dedicated first to serving the men and women of the nuclear community, both here in the United States and around the world, as a source of news, technical knowledge, professional development opportunities, and scientific fellowship.

This should not in any way dissuade us, however—either individually or as a community—from engaging in the public discussion about nuclear technology, especially when debates become tainted by outright falsehoods or “fake news.” As we have seen in stark relief over the past eight months of pandemic-dominated life, the scientific community has a societal obligation to stand up and set the record straight when misinformation crops up. Simply put, we have to be prepared to call balls and strikes.

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EIA: Nine of top 10 electricity generators in 2019 were nuclear plants

Graph: EIA

Of the 10 U.S. power plants that generated the most electricity in 2019, nine were nuclear plants, a recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration states.

These 10 facilities produced a combined 230 million megawatt hours of electricity last year, accounting for 5.6 percent of all electricity generation in the United States, according to the report. The report also notes a shift in the makeup of the top plants over the past 10 years, from a mix of nuclear and coal-fired generators in 2010 to nearly all nuclear in 2019.

Coal’s share of U.S. electricity generation dropped from 45 percent in 2010 to 23 percent in 2019, the reports says. Stricter air emission standards and decreased cost competitiveness relative to other generators are given as the key reasons for coal’s decade of decline.

Labor union leader weighs in on closure of Illinois nuclear plants

Lonnie Stephenson, international president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, wrote an op-ed published in the September 25 Chicago Sun-Times touting the benefits of nuclear power in Illinois and decrying Exelon’s plan to prematurely shutter the Byron and Dresden plants.

Exelon to close Byron and Dresden plants in 2021

Exelon Generation, operator of the largest nuclear reactor fleet in the United States, intends to downsize that fleet next year by retiring its Byron and Dresden plants. In an announcement released early this morning, Exelon said that the two-unit Byron, located near Byron, Ill., would be permanently closed in September 2021, followed in November by the two-unit Dresden, located in Morris, Ill.

Byron is licensed to operate for another 20 years; Dresden, a much older facility, is licensed for another decade.

Illinois plants set outage performance marks

Four of six Illinois nuclear power plants—Braidwood, Byron, LaSalle, and Quad Cities—set operational records while conducting spring refueling outages amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Performance records include the shortest refueling outage (18 days) at LaSalle; the shortest refueling outage at Quad Cities (16 days), as well as the completion of the site’s longest continuous run (722 days); and the completion at both Braidwood and Byron of their sixth consecutive continuous cycle of operations, also known as a “breaker-to-breaker” run, according to a May 7 press release from Exelon Generation. Exelon’s average outage duration in Illinois this spring was 17 days, a full two weeks shorter than the national average, the release stated.