Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker appreciates applause at the signing event for the state's new energy bill.
In an hour-long ceremony held yesterday at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium amid some fanfare (it included an appearance by lizards, a snake, and a penguin), Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (S.B. 2408). The bill is a sweeping overhaul of the state’s energy policies aimed at phasing out fossil-fuel power generation and placing Illinois on a path to become a 100 percent carbon-free energy producer by 2050.
The Byron and Dresden nuclear power plants.
In what could be viewed as a rather pointed message to Illinois lawmakers that time is running out to pass legislation providing a lifeline to the state’s Byron and Dresden nuclear plants, Exelon Generation this morning announced that it would file post-shutdown decommissioning activities reports (PSDARs) today with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The PSDARs detail long-term site restoration plans for the facilities, both of which are scheduled to shut down for good this fall—first Byron, in September, then Dresden, in November.
The Dresden nuclear power plant (Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission)
As Illinois lawmakers continue to debate energy legislation that would allow the state’s Byron and Dresden nuclear plants to continue operation beyond this year, Exelon would like to remind everyone—including those legislators, no doubt—of what is at stake.
Byron nuclear power plant
Three Illinois nuclear power plants—Byron, Dresden, and Quad Cities—did not clear in last week’s long-delayed PJM Interconnection capacity auction, Exelon Generation reported in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The news is likely to further pressure the Illinois General Assembly to pass a comprehensive energy package—one with subsidies for the state’s financially ailing nuclear plants—before Exelon moves forward with its plan, announced last August, to prematurely retire Byron and Dresden.
The above figure provides NYISO's projected mix of resource capacity expected to be available for the 2021 Summer Capability Period.
The figure below shows the vast difference in 2020 between clean energy provided to upstate New York and to downstate New York. With the recent closure of Indian Point-3, the difference will widen for downstate New York in 2021.
NYISO released its 2021 power trends report for the state of New York. As noted by many in the energy community prior to the closure of Indian Point nuclear power plant's Unit 2 and Unit 3 in 2020 and 2021, respectively, the projected mix of resource capacity expected for downstate New York's energy generation will be heavily reliant on fossil fuels.
Indian Point-3’s turbine hall and generator. Photo: Entergy
The disturbingly long list of U.S. nuclear plants prematurely closed in recent years will get even longer tonight when the last reactor at the Indian Point Energy Center, Unit 3, powers down for the final time. The shutdown, scheduled for 11 p.m. local time, will mark the end of nearly 60 years of zero-carbon electricity generation at the Buchanan, N.Y., facility.
Two of the state’s six nuclear plants nearly closed in 2016, but legislative action saved them. Now two more are at risk.
If there is one U.S. state you might think would be on top of the nuclear-plant-retirement problem, it’s Illinois: With 11 power reactors, more than any other state, it is number one in nuclear generating capacity. In 2019, 54 percent of its in-state generation came from nuclear power. So why, at this writing in mid-April, does Illinois still face the possibility of losing two of its nuclear plants later this year?
Exelon's Byron Nuclear Generating Station.
A group of Illinois lawmakers joined Joe Duffy, executive director of the labor coalition Climate Jobs Illinois (CJI), at a virtual news conference on March 29 to unveil a union-focused, clean energy legislative proposal that includes help for the state’s struggling nuclear power plants.
Byron (left) and Dresden (right) may be looking at early retirement if Springfield doesn't pass an energy package before the fall of 2021.
On August 27, I stood in front of small groups of socially distanced employees at our Dresden Generating Station in Illinois, announcing plans for the premature retirement of the nuclear facility next fall. A hundred miles away, our chief operating officer was delivering a similar, equally somber announcement to employees at the Byron Station.
Despite being among the safest, most efficient, and reliable nuclear plants in the nation, 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 merchant nuclear 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.