BYRON, Ill. (WTVO) — Exelon Generation, the owner and operator of the Byron nuclear energy plant, filed to decommission and close the plant in September of this year.
Exelon also announced it is preparing to issue job reduction notifications to current employees in the final steps to retire the plant.
“Well, we’re going to have to work a lot harder. Our family will struggle a little bit,” said Nina Croke, owner of Costa’s Pizzeria, at 133 E Blackhawk Drive. “Today’s news was definitely a gut punch, so to speak. It was a little devastating.”
Costa’s caters events and holiday parties for the Byron nuclear plant and says the closure will represent a significant pay cut, both for Croke’s business and for the community at large.
The Byron Generating Station pays property taxes of almost $34M in Ogle County. The school district receives nearly $19M; Byron Fire gets $2.6M; and Rock Valley College receives roughly $2.3M.
“Taxes are going to go up. Bills are going to hike. The housing market is going to crash. It’s not going to be good for the community,” she warned.
Croke says here emotions are running the gamut. “It’s a rollercoaster,” she said. “At first, I think it was a panic. Then it was frustration. And now, I think this might be a sad time. Some people might have to think about selling their homes and leaving a community they’ve lived in for many years.”
Mayor John Rickard says he remembers when the plant opened in the 1980’s. “I was really expecting that this plant would stay open for it’s full lifetime. When the plant opened, Byron was a town of about 1,200 people. It’s now a town of about 3,800 people. So, the town grew and became a great place to live.”
Rickard says the shutdown will ultimately mean Byron will lose people and business.
“Those folks come and use our gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores, so it brings in a lot of business,” he said.
After 30 years in Byron, Croke says her father is nervous for the future.
“He’s thankful for this community, but he’s sad to see the nuclear plant go, because he’s afraid of the negative impact it will have in our area,” she said.
Rickard says efforts to save the plant aren’t done, yet. He’s says he’s still hoping for Clean Energy legislation to pass in Springfield.