Byron nuclear plant to shut down in 2021

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CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — Exelon Generation announced Thursday that it would be retiring its Byron Generating Station in the fall of 2021.

The Byron plant will close in September 2021.

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

The company has intended to close the Byron plant for some time. 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.

Earlier this month, Exelon President and CEO Christopher Crane said the company was  “in the middle of trying to work through legislative strategy in Illinois” that would allow its nuclear plants in the state to remain open.

In July, Exelon’s electric utility Commonweath Edison, agreed to pay $200 million to resolve a federal criminal investigation into a long-running bribery scheme.

The company has admitted that it arranged jobs, subcontracted work and monetary payments related to those jobs “for various associates of a high-level elected official [Speaker Mike Madigan] for the state of Illinois,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a news release.

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.

“Although we know in our heads that shutting down the uneconomic Illinois plants is necessary to preserve even more jobs elsewhere, our hearts ache today for the thousands of talented women and men that have served Illinois families for more than a generation and will lose their jobs because of poorly conceived energy policies,” said Crane. “But we are only about a year away from shutdown and we need to give our people, the host communities, and regulators time to prepare.”

“We agree with Governor Pritzker that policy reform is urgently needed to address the climate crisis and advance Illinois’ clean energy economy, and we support the objectives of the Governor’s recent energy principles,” added Crane. “That’s separate from today’s announcement to retire these two zero-carbon nuclear plants, which was not a decision made lightly and is one that has been in the works for some time.” 

Exelon said it would be filing a deactivation notice with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission within 30 days to make the shutdown official.

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