THREAT LEVEL: HIGH
Byron 1 & 2
The two reactors at Byron Generating Station in Illinois are scheduled to close September 2021. While the plant has already obtained an operating license extension to the mid-2040s, this premature retirement is for purely economic reasons. The plant owner, Exelon Corporation, maintains that the plant loses hundreds of millions of dollars per year because of declining energy prices and market rules that allow fossil fuel plants to underbid clean resources in capacity auctions. This is a failure of national energy markets to support clean energy. Exelon is apparently willing to continue operation of the plant, but only if Illinois policymakers act quickly to compensate Byron for its environmental attributes.
There are six nuclear stations in Illinois, two of which – Clinton and Quad Cities – are supported by the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act, which compensates them for their clean energy attributes, thereby preventing their premature closure. Exelon owns the four remaining nuclear stations – Byron, Dresden, Braidwood and LaSalle – which do not receive such support from that Act. According to Aron Larson, writing in Power Magazine, the Byron Generating Station is arguably Exelon’s best plant, and consistently among the best performing in the U.S.
The facility is located on a 1,782-acre site near Byron, Illinois, and includes two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors, capable of producing net generation of 2,347 MW at the site. The units are currently licensed to operate until Oct. 31, 2044, and Nov. 6, 2046, respectively. However, Exelon announced on August 27 that it intends to close the Byron station in September 2021 for economic reasons.
The Byron station has an extraordinary track record, boasting a capacity factor in 2019 of an impressive 96.9%. Unit 1 currently has three straight breaker-to-breaker runs, that is, periods of non-stop operation between refueling cycles, while Unit 2 currently has two straight breaker-to-breaker runs. As of Oct. 6, 2020, Byron had operated 4,724 consecutive days with at least one unit online. That’s almost 13 years straight of continuous power generation.
Various studies disagree whether Byron is economically viable. However, it is clear if Byron closes, Illinois citizens will pay dearly by increased fossil fuel pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, higher energy costs, almost a thousand lost jobs, loss of local tax revenue, and the billions it will cost to build new replacement clean energy resources. The smart move for Illinois and the U.S. is to pay to keep Byron operational in the short run, and work to correct the flawed market structures which fail to compensate nuclear plants for the value they bring to our electricity system. On May 24th, 2021, we sent this letter to Illinois legislators urging them to approve the Climate Union Jobs Act, which seeks to keep all Illinois nuclear facilities open.
Byron Historical Performance
Initiatives to save Byron
It is not too late to join us in urging Illinois legislators to approve the Climate Union Jobs Act (CUJA) to save Byron. Please sign our campaign and share your support by spreading the word that you want Illinois legislators to #Protect Nuclear Now. Please write an OpEd, an article, Facebook post or Tweet about this campaign or the CUJA. (Be sure to use the #PNN hashtag.)