BYRON, Ill. (WTVO) – Governor JB Pritzker gave his stamp of approval to sweeping clean energy legislation this earlier this week. On Friday, local leaders gathered to celebrate the Exelon-Byron Generating Station’s new lease on life.
“This was not an easy bill to pass, it was 900 pages long. But you saw Democrats and Republicans coming together, passing something that is so important to Byron and across the northern Illinois region,” said State Senator Steve Stadelman, 34th District.
“It was a tremendous grassroots effort. I mean everybody knows, you drive around any community in our area and you saw those signs that said ‘Save the Nuclear Plants,” said Representative Tom Demmer of Dixon.
Terry McGoldrick, the President of the Local 15 chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said that it has been a stressful summer waiting to find out the plant’s fate, and he is glad that lawmakers were able to compromise after hundreds of local workers prepared for the worst.
“For the people that work here specifically, they had an entire summer of working here shorthanded because we were not hiring people, because we thought the plant would close down. So, they had to take on quite a bit of extra shifts, work overtime, all during a pandemic, McGoldrick said. “They did not know if they were going to be putting fuel in, and taking it out for the last time. So, it was a huge sigh of relief for them to know that this is done and it is behind us.”
Some critics are worried that the issue is not fully put to bed. The bill calls for the plant to be funded for only the next six year, but McGoldrick believes state leaders have helped set the stage for a national conversation on clean energy.
“Other nuclear fleet in other states are struggling with the same issues that we are here. A lot of other states, quite honestly, were looking to see what we were going to do,” McGoldrick said. “So, this really was a state bridge to get us to a federal role that will resolve this once and for all, for the entire nuclear industry across the country.”
The federal government is currently working on a trillion dollar infrastructure bill. Local lawmakers said that Congress is expected to include money for nuclear plants across the country.