Exelon threatens to close nuclear plants, including Byron’s

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BYRON (WREX) — Exelon says early retirement could happen at three northern Illinois nuclear power plants, including the one in Byron.

In its latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Exelon says Byron’s plant is at risk of early retirement because of financial reasons and economic distress. The SEC report dated Feb. 8  also named plants in Braidwood and Dresden.

“Our plants are economically challenged due to market flaws that aren’t valuing zero carbon nuclear power for its environmental and grid resiliency benefits,” says Paul Dempsey, an Exelon spokesman out of Byron.

Byron’s plant, which went online in the 1980s, isn’t scheduled for retirement until the 2040s.

But economic concerns have been lingering for years.

In May 2018, the PJM capacity auction for the 2021-2022 planning year saw the largest volume of nuclear capacity ever not selected.for multiple years. In Byron’s case, it was agreeing to provide energy through 2022.  Only portions of the Byron plant cleared during the auction.

Exelon officials say they have known a report like this might come, but there are always ongoing discussions with lawmakers on how to keep the plant open.

“The best we can do is work with our policymakers just to show them that we can have six plants in this state that are all carbon free, which is very important to combat climate change,” Dempsey said. “These plants are run at nearly 100 percent of the time, which is more than any other large scale electricity source.”

Because of the PJM auction, the earliest it could close is 2022.

Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) says there is cause for concern after the SEC report was filed. However, he says there could be additional support from the state to subsidize plants like Byron’s to keep it from closing.

An example of this would be what happened in Clinton and the Quad Cities back in 2016. In a similar situation, Exelon said it would shutter those plants because of economic distress.

Demmer says multiple stakeholders came to the table then to make sure the plants didn’t close, including Exelon, Republicans, Democrats, labor groups and environmental groups. The state now helps subsidize those plants.

Demmer says it could be an option for Byron down the road, but for now it’s too early to tell. Meanwhile, representatives from Braidwood and Dresden have requested meetings with Exelon to discuss the SEC filing.

Beyond that, a report from Crain’s Chicago Business says it is unlikely all three plants would close at once because it would jeopardize power supplies to Chicago.

Byron’s plan can provide energy to more than 2.2 million homes or businesses and it employs 800 people.

13 News will continue to follow this story and bring you more updates as this story develops. 

Audrey Moon

Audrey Moon

Asst. News Director

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