Exelon moves to close Byron, Dresden nuclear plants, citing Springfield failure on energy deal: ‘We have no choice’

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Steam rises from the cooling towers at Exelon’s Byron nuclear power plant in 2011.
Steam rises from the cooling towers at Exelon’s Byron nuclear power plant in 2011. | AP file

Byron would close September, followed by Dresden in November. The company also plans to issue job reduction notices to employees — staffing at the energy plant hovered around 1,500 people when plans to retire the facilities were announced last August.

Citing the lack of a deal on clean energy legislation, Exelon Generation plans to file decommissioning plans for its Byron and Dresden nuclear power plants.

The filings, which company officials said they plan to submit to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, are among the final steps in retiring the plants, which have been in operation for decades.

Byron would close September, followed by Dresden in November.

The company also plans to issue job reduction notices to employees — staffing at the energy plant hovered around 1,500 people when plans to retire the facilities were announced last August. That figure could drop as low as 30 to 40 employees over the next 10 years, according to a news release announcing the plans.

“With no signs of a breakthrough on clean energy legislation in Springfield, we have no choice but to take these final steps in preparation for shutting down the plants,” Dave Rhoades, Exelon Generation’s chief nuclear officer said in a statement.

“We will never stop fighting for policies to preserve Illinois’ nuclear fleet, knowing that the minute these plants close our customers will experience dirtier air and higher energy costs. But with time running out, we must plan for the future and do everything we can to prepare our employees and the communities they serve for what lies ahead.”

Without legislation, the company could also close its Braidwood and LaSalle nuclear facilities sometime in the “next few years,” according to the company statement.

A spokesman for Senate President Don Harmon said negotiations are ongoing.

State Senate President Don Harmon in 2017.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file
State Senate President Don Harmon in 2017.

“Talks continue as everyone involved seeks to find the right balance for a future energy plan that is renewable, reliable and affordable,” John Patterson, Harmon’s spokesman, said in a statement. “It’s a complex situation involving thousands of jobs, our climate future and every Illinoisans’ power bill, so clearly we want to get this right.”

The Byron Generating Station, near the Rock River Valley in Ogle County, has been in operation for more than 30 years. The Dresden plant, in Grundy County, has been supplying power for more than 40 years.

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July 28, 2021 at 01:58PM

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