Exelon Threatens To Close Byron, Dresden Nuclear Plants

Aug 27, 2020

Exelon announced Thursday that it intends to retire its Byron Generating Station and Dresden Generating Station in fall 2021. 

Credit Victoria Lunacek

Byron is licensed to operate for another 20 years. The company said Byron and Dresden employ more than 1,500 full-time employees and 2,000 supplemental workers during refueling outages.

According to a statement, Exelon President and CEO Christopher Crane said the announcement gives communities time to prepare. The company said Dresden and Byron face revenue shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars because of “declining energy prices” and “market rules that allow fossil fuel plants to underbid clean resources in the PJM capacity auction.”

The company said the plants’ economic challenges “are further exacerbated by a recent FERC ruling that undermines longstanding state clean energy programs and gives an additional competitive advantage to polluting energy sources in the auction.”

Exelon said the LaSalle and Braidwood nuclear stations in Illinois are also at high risk for premature closure.

The attempt to get new rules out of Springfield may be complicated in the wake of a bribery scandal with ComEd, Exelon’s subsidiary.  

The company plans to make official shutdown notifications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission within 30 days.

From Illinois State Representative Tom Demmer:

I am deeply disappointed with today’s announcement that Exelon intends to close the Byron Nuclear Plant in September 2021. The plant is home to hundreds of good-paying jobs and contributes millions of dollars in property taxes to fund schools, public safety, and local government. It also generates a significant amount of clean, reliable electricity without any carbon pollution. 

I will not take this decision as final. The Exelon statement itself said “we will continue our dialogue with policymakers on ways to prevent these closures”. I will work with the Governor’s office and my fellow legislators to ensure that Byron has a seat at the table and a voice in the discussions about Illinois’ energy policy.

The Byron Nuclear Plant has been a cornerstone of the Ogle County economy for decades. Families throughout the region count on these good jobs. We will not let this go without a fight!

Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-16) released a statement Thursday morning:

“Today’s announcement to close both the Byron and Dresden power plants is a gut-punch to the people of Illinois, especially to the counties that surround these generating stations. Hundreds of people will now be out of jobs and our efforts to produce clean, affordable, safe nuclear energy will be crushed.

“As a nation, we cannot reach our climate goals without nuclear energy. In Congress, I’ve long fought for nuclear and am doing everything I can at the federal level to save our nuclear fleet. But we need state support.

“What did we get instead? Corruption and bribery by Speaker Mike Madigan and Illinois’ largest electric utility company, ComEd. They put millions of dollars into their own pockets by hiking up prices on Illinois taxpayers, and throwing our nuclear power plants into the crosshairs of their backroom deals.

“The Byron and Dresden nuclear power plants are the latest casualties of the self-serving policies coming from Democrat-led Springfield, and it’s long-past time for a change. To start, I’m calling on Senator Durbin to work with me in Congress to take the Department of Justice fines on ComEd and re-appropriate them to the communities most affected by these plant closures.

“I’ll continue to fight for nuclear energy, for the vital operations of our remaining power plants, and for accountability in our government. Because integrity matters, and Illinois deserves much, much better than this.”

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon released a statement:

“Independent market monitors believe these plants can be profitable. I intend to look into legislative options including requiring these plants be put up for sale before they can be shuttered. We owe it to these workers and communities to see if someone else can successfully run these assets.”

The Illinois Chamber released this statement on Thursday:

"The Illinois Chamber was disappointed to learn that Exelon has once again threatened to close two of their nuclear facilities next year -- plants that it has acknowledged continue to be profitable -- unless they receive another bailout funded by ratepayers," said Illinois Chamber President and CEO Todd Maisch. "Exelon is demanding a bailout without completely opening its books to a truly independent third party. PJM's Independent Market Monitor should conduct a thorough audit.

"The Chamber does understand, however, that the closure of power plants can have a significant economic impact on employees and the communities where those facilities are located, and that's why we support Senate President Pro Tempore Bill Cunningham’s Senate Bill 3837, which includes a number of tools to mitigate these impacts. For instance, SB 3837 would create the Community Impact Mitigation Fund to mitigate the impacts of lost property taxes and jobs, and decreased economic development as a result of closures.

 

"The Chamber will continue to work with policy makers and energy stakeholders to craft a balanced energy policy that ensures reliable and affordable electricity."