The energy bill guarantees the survival of nuclear power plants


(AP Photo / Robert Ray, file)

Residents of a northern Illinois community breathe easier after signing an energy policy bill that ensures the city’s nuclear power plant survives.

Since 1985, Byron has been home to two Exelon nuclear reactors that produce nearly 2,500 megawatts of energy, enough to power around 2 million homes. Exelon had threatened to shut down the facility if the state did not grant new subsidies.

“Everyone feels a great relief,” said John Rickard, Mayor of Byron. “All the fears we had of what might happen will not happen. I was worried. I had no idea it was going to be okay. I really felt like it could fail.

Rickard says the plant has meant a lot to his city, including about $ 19 million a year in property taxes paid to the local school district.

“Byron didn’t have a lot of talent until the factory got here,” Rickard said. “And with that, we were able to create a culture of great education, which attracted other people to come and live here.”

The new law provides nearly $ 700 million over the next five years to help offset Exelon’s operating losses at three state nuclear power plants. Company officials have argued that these facilities cannot remain profitable when competing with cheaper fossil fuels and subsidized renewable energy sources.

Rickard says this is good news for his town and the rest of Illinois.

“The total economic impact of the plant is approximately $ 388 million in economic activity for the region,” Rickard said. “For example, very little state money [Byron] schools because we have the factory. You take away the factory that changes the calculations and it would take more money from the state to support the school, which takes money away from others.

Rickard says this deal will give Byron time to prepare for the next step, whenever it could.

“We know that one day the plant is going to close,” said Rickard. “She’s licensed for another 20 years and we hope she will last that long. With enough warning, we’ll make the adjustments.

The Exelon factories in Dresden and Braidwood are also protected from closure for the next few years by the new subsidies.

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