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Byron nuclear plant, facing 2021 closure, getting refueling outage in October

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Exelon Corp. is taking its Byron Unit 2 nuclear station offline for a nearly three-week planned outage to refuel.

The 33-year-old Unit 2 is being taken offline early in October for 19 days of maintenance, refueling and upgrades. The workforce employed on the project includes 700 employees of owner Exelon as well as 1,200 additional contractors.

“Byron Station provides safe, reliable carbon-free electricity to more than 2 million homes and businesses in Northern Illinois and plays a critical role powering hospitals, regional response centers and essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads a company statement on the outage project. “The station’s workforce of highly trained employees and skilled contractors knows the critical role they play in the upcoming refueling outage and are subject to additional precautions to ensure they remain healthy during the pandemic, including rigorous self-screening for signs of fever or respiratory issues before reporting to work.”

The work at the Illinois plant will focus on refueling 1/3 of the reactor, equipment repairs, inspections and preventive maintenance items. Exelon is reducing the scope of the outage goals to decrease the workforce by 425 due to COVID=19 concerns.

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Crews will replace circulating water valves, buried piping and also digitally upgrade main control room monitoring functions.

Unit 2 generates about 1,136 MW of carbon-free power at capacity. It houses a Westinghouse pressurized water reactor.

The 1,164-MW Unit 1 was shut down for a temporary outage and refueling earlier this year.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission renewed Bryon Generating Station’s licenses five years ago, allowing the units to operate through 2044 and 2046, according to reports.

Last month, Exelon announced it was closing both Byron units and the Dresden nuclear station sometime in 2021, despite the long-term operational approval by the NRC. The utility blamed market rules which, it said, favor carbon-emitting power plants.