Byron residents in last ditch effort to save nuclear plant from closure

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BYRON, Ill. (WTVO) — Local advocates are doubling down on their efforts to save the Byron nuclear plant ahead of the end of the congressional legislative session on Monday.

Exelon Generation announced the closure of the Byron and Dresden nuclear power generating stations in August 2020.

The Byron plant will close in September 2021.

Exelon’s Dresden plant, in Morris, will close in November 2021.

Christine Lynde, president of the Byron School Board and member of the Station Response Committee, says she’s encouraging residents to fill out witness slips and reach out to lawmakers to voice their support for keeping the plant.

Lynde says everyone will be impacted if the plant closes as scheduled this year, not just those who live in Byron.

A recent study estimated that more than 15% of Ogle County’s gross domestic product is tied to the facility, which is also a significant source of tax revenue for the fire department and school district.

“We’re the people that are going to live with the consequences of shutting these plants down,” she said. “We will see significant economic impact if we allow those plants to close. And it’s not only going to affect businesses. It’s going to affect children.”

State representative Andrew Chesney (R-89th) says lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are in agreement on parts of the “Climate Union Jobs Act”, such as including an equity component and opening the door for the expansion of green energy.

“The hangup is the nuclear plants, on what type of subsidy they would receive, because there’s really a debate on how much dollars they need in incentives to have that balance so they can compete in the markets,” Chesney said.

In February of 2019, a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Exelon said the plant is “showing increased signs of economic distress, which could lead to an early retirement, in a market that does not currently compensate them for their unique contribution to grid resiliency and their ability to produce large amounts of energy without carbon and air pollution.”

Exelon cited revenue shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars because of declining energy prices and energy rules that allow fossil fuel plants to make cheaper bids at energy auction.

In December, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made a decision to force the energy grid operator PMJ to use a “minimum offer price rule,” to limit how low state subsidies could bid for energy at auction to address “price suppression” caused by resources supported by state policies like zero emission credits. Critics of the ruling say it gave an advantage to existing coal, and natural gas-fired generation.

Since the mid 1980’s, Byron’s nuclear generating station has produced power for more than two million homes.

The Byron plant employs more than 1,500 full time employees and 2,000 supplemental workers. The local school, fire and police services receive millions of dollars every year in taxes.

Together, the two plants supply 30% of Illinois carbon-free energy, according to the company.

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