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.

Nuclear Energy on the Edge

Clinton Power Station, courtesy Exelon Nuclear

Yesterday, June 2, 2016, may have marked a watershed moment in the present day history of nuclear power plants in the United States, when two nuclear plants were selected by their owner for shutdown far in advance of their license expiration dates for economic reasons. The fast-moving pace of plants being shut down under similar economic circumstances (unbalanced energy markets that favor other forms of energy to the detriment of nuclear) signals a broken system that must be changed, now.