BYRON (WREX) — Exelon says it will retire its nuclear power plant in Byron by 2021, which has been in operation for more than 30 years. Byron’s plant will close in September 2021, with Exelon citing revenue shortfalls because of declining energy prices.“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 Christopher Crane, president and CEO of Exelon. “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.”
The announcement was made Thursday morning in a news release, saying Exelon is forced to close the iconic twin cooling towers that provide carbon-free electricity to more than 2 million homes and employ hundreds of people in the region.
Rumors of a closure have been rumbling for years, most recently in February of 2019. In a report published by Exelon, the company says plants are « economically challenged due to market flaws that aren’t valuing zero carbon nuclear power. » According to the report and 13 WREX archives, the Exelon said the plant could close as early as 2022.
At the time, though, Exelon officials said they would work with lawmakers in Springfield with hopes of subsidizing the plant. This time, Exelon officials say they will continue a dialogue.
“We recognize this comes as many of our communities are still recovering from the economic and public health impacts of the pandemic, and we will continue our dialogue with policymakers on ways to prevent these closures,” said Crane. “To that end, we have opened our books to policymakers and will continue to do so for any lawmaker who wishes to judge the plants’ profitability.” “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.”
According to Exelon, the plant employs 727 people with an annual payroll estimated at $82.5 million.
Not only does the plant employ more than 700 people throughout the region with high-paying, stable jobs, it’s also one of the country’s largest taxing bodies. According to a 2018 report, Byron’s nuclear plant was charged $36.5 million in property taxes in 2017. That’s higher than all but 20 properties in the nation, right ahead of Disneyland in California.
The plant also gives millions of dollars each year to community partners, including the Byron Fire Protection District, the Byron and Oregon Chambers of Commerce, and is a benefactor to local events, including ByronFest, Leaf River Daze, Oregon’s Autumn on Parade and the Stillman Valley Fall Festival.
Construction on the plant began in 1975. Unit 1 entered commercial service on Sept. 16, 1985, while its twin Unit 2 entered service on Aug. 2, 1987.
The licenses for both units expire in 2044 and 2046, respectively. In February, the plant celebrated 4,500 consecutive days producing carbon-free energy to Illinois, while also marking 45 years on site. Employees celebrated with cake that was an edible replica of the plant.
In the days and weeks ahead, Exelon Generation will file a deactivation notice with PJM and inform key stakeholders and regulatory agencies of the retirements. In addition, the company will:
Exelon also announced it would retire its Dresden plant, located in Morris, Ill. in November 2021.
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