U.S. energy giant Exelon Generation said in a statement released August 27th that the company will be retiring two of its most prominent and productive nuclear power plants, the two-unit each Byron and Dresden plants. Based in northern Illinois, the two respective plants, both of which are licensed to continue operating well into the next decade and a half, are scheduled to be shutdown in September and November of 2021.
Among the most efficient and reliable plants in the American nuclear industry, Byron and Dresden supply roughly 30% of the state’s carbon-free energy. Byron, which is comprised of two pressurized water reactors, is capable of producing 1164 and 1136 megawatts of electricity from its twin reactors, while Dresden, housing two boiler water reactors is capable of producing 894 and 879 megawatts, respectively. With Illinois’s stated goal of 100% clean energy by 2025 (of which they are currently at 85%) the closing of Byron and Dresden would drop that progress back down to about 20%, assuming Exelon’s other two nuclear facilities in the state, Braidwood and LaSalle, also capitulate to similar pressure applied by market rules and political favor toward coal-fired plants. A deactivation notice is expected to be sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the coming weeks.
The decision to shutter the plants comes as they “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” the company said in a statement, adding that economic challenges are further exacerbated by, “ a recent ruling by the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that “undermines longstanding state clean energy programs and gives an additional competitive advantage to polluting energy sources in the auction”.
Despite the grim outlook for Byron and Dresden, there may still be hope in the form of government subsidies. “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,” said Christopher Crane, Exelon President and CEO, “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. 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.”
As a longtime supplier to the nuclear industry and a regular collaborator with Exelon on reverse engineering and plug and play applications, OTEK recently installed several instruments within the facilities.
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