Despite 'Economic Distress', Two US Nuclear Power Plants Saved From Closing Through Subsidies


Slashdot reader oumuamua writes that two U.S. nuclear plants owned by Exelon "were almost shutdown prematurely...but were saved at the last minute by the Illinois Senate." The Illinois Senate has approved a clean energy deal which includes a subsidy for Exelon to keep the Byron nuclear plant in operation, after the House passed it last week.

The plan gives Exelon $694 million to keep the Byron and Dresden plants operational. Exelon had previously begun drawing down the Byron plant with an anticipated retirement date of Monday, September 13th, and had warned that once the nuclear fuel had been depleted, it could not be refueled after that date.

Exelon said Monday that with the passage of the bill, it was preparing to refuel both plants.


The company had actually intended to close the Byron plant for some time, according to an earlier article: In February of 2019, a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Exelon said the plant is "showing increased signs of economic distress, which could lead to an early retirement, in a market that does not currently compensate them for their unique contribution to grid resiliency and their ability to produce large amounts of energy without carbon and air pollution." Exelon cited revenue shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars because of declining energy prices and energy rules that allow fossil fuel plants to make cheaper bids at energy auction.
Or, as another article puts it, "Exelon says its Byron and Dresden stations are losing money."

oumuamua adds that "With the urgency of the climate crisis more clear than ever, no nuclear plant should be closed prematurely while coal plants continue operation in the same state. Many celebrated the Senate move, however, others have criticized Exelon's actions. "Exelon first started what we've dubbed the nuclear hostage crisis. It's a pattern where a utility will for whatever reasons threaten closure, which gets the workers very upset, then the local community whose tax base depends on it gets upset, they pressure their legislators, and then the legislators grant bailouts," said Dave Kraft, head of the Nuclear Energy Information Service.

Kraft said rather than continuing to support nuclear energy, Illinois needs to redouble its commitment to wind and solar.