News, Nuclear, O&M

Exelon closing two nuclear plants, citing market rules and FERC decision

Exelon announced it will close two Illinois nuclear power generation stations representing 4,000 MW of carbon-free electricity being taken off the grid next year.

The Chicago-based utility said that its Byron and Dresden generating stations are going to be retired in fall 2021. Exelon Generation’s press release blamed market rules favoring carbon-emitting plants.

The two stations have a total of four reactor units and supplied power to the equivalent of four million homes and business in northern Illinois.

Crane

“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,” said Christopher Crane, president and CEO of Exelon. “But we are only about a year away from shutdown and we need to give our people, the host communities, and regulators time to prepare.”

Crane said the company supports efforts by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker toward policy reform addressing climate change and advancing Illinois’ clean energy economy.

 “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,” the Exelon CEO added.

Dresden (pictured above) is licensed to operate for another decade and Byron for another 20 years. The two plants supply 30 percent of Illinois’ carbon-free energy, according to Exelon.

Byron Generating Station

Bryon, which is located just outside the city of Byron, will close in September 2021. The two units were completed in the 1980s and still maintain a capacity factor above 90 percent, according to reports.

Dresden, located in Morris, will be retired in November 2021. Its first unit was commissioned in 1960 and later retired, while the two remaining units were completed in the 1970s. Its lifetime capacity factor is around 78 percent and currently performs at better than 90 percent, according to reports.

See more PE stories on the future of nuclear power

“Dresden and Byron 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 in the PJM capacity auction, even though there is broad public support for sustaining and expanding clean energy resources to address the climate crisis,” reads the Exelon press release announcing the impending closures.

“The plants’ economic challenges are further exacerbated by a recent FERC ruling that undermines longstanding state clean energy programs and gives an additional competitive advantage to polluting energy sources in the auction,” the release said.

The same market rules could force Exelon to prematurely close its LaSalle and Braidwood nuclear stations in Illinois, the company warned.

(Rod Walton is content director for Power Engineering and POWERGEN International. He can be reached at 918-831-9177 and [email protected]).