Byron Nuclear Power Plant faces controversial shutdown


   In August, an important announcement was made for the community of Byron. Exelon, the parent company of the nuclear plant in Byron, announced that they would be shutting down the plant. Many people are concerned about the effects it will have on the community. The planned closing of the plant in September 2021 can be attributed to funding.

   Exelon Byron Station Communications Manager Paul Dempsey said on the subject of the closing, “Both the stations between Byron and Dresden, they face revenue shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars.” (via MSN)

   The plant was costing Exelon millions to operate and was not meeting the cost of keeping it running. From a financial standpoint, it makes sense to close the plant. But what will the closing mean for the community of Byron and the surrounding area? If the plant shuts down in September 2021, 720 people will be put out of work. 

   The plant generates around $30 million in taxes for the region, where around $19 million goes to the local school district. The Byron School District relies on this funding heavily, with it accounting for 70% of its budget. The loss of the tax revenue generated by the plant will increase taxes for the community of Byron.

   The local community, however, is trying to save their plant by forming committees. As of December 2020, 40 local businesses are members of the cause. They hope to rally support to keep the plant up and running.

Exelon explained their reasoning for  shutting down the plants, citing the dropping cost of energy and  the changing market rules. This allowed fossil fuel and coal  plants to underbid clean energy plants and take away customers from them. 

   Christopher Crane, the President and CEO of Exelon, said in a statement, “Although we know in our heads that shutting down the uneconomic Illinois plants is necessary to preserve even more jobs elsewhere, our hearts ache today for the thousands of talented women and men that have served Illinois families for more than a generation and will lose their jobs because of poorly conceived energy policies.”

   Despite all of these challenges that face the Byron plant, saving it is still a possibility. State legislation can be passed, preventing plants that rely on fossil fuels and coal to produce electricity from underbidding nuclear power plants. Another hope for the plant is President-Elect Joe Biden’s new “Green Deal.” Biden, the up-and-coming president, is in big favor of clean energy and could divert federal funding to keep the Byron and Dresden plants open until the eventual complete transfer to clean energy. It is Biden’s hope, and the hopes of many, that this can be achievable by 2050, and keeping both the Byron and Dresden plants open will help achieve that goal.  The closing of these plants would increase  carbon emissions by up to 70% in the region.

   Exelon will revisit whether or not to keep the plants open in the spring. However, unless changes are made at a state or federal level in terms of energy pricing, the plants will be closing on schedule in the fall.