BYRON, Ill. — The Byron nuclear plant, which has been in operation in Ogle County since 1985, just over 30 miles south of the Illinois/Wisconsin state line, will stop operations next year.
Exelon Generation announced Thursday that it intends to retire its Byron Generating Station and Dresden Generating Station in Morris, Illinois, in fall 2021. The retirements will result in the loss of four nuclear generation units that supply energy to more than four million homes and businesses in northern Illinois.
The Byron plant will close in September 2021, and the Dresden facility will close in November 2021, according to a news release from Exelon Generation.
Dresden is licensed to operate for another decade and Byron for another 20 years. Together, they employ more than 1,500 full-time employees and 2,000 supplemental workers. The plants pay nearly $63 million in taxes annually to support local schools, fire, police and other services.
The two plants supply 30% of Illinois’ carbon-free energy.
“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.”
“We recognize this comes as many of our communities are still recovering from the economic and public health impacts of the pandemic, and we will continue our dialogue with policymakers on ways to prevent these closures,” Crane said. “To that end, we have opened our books to policymakers and will continue to do so for any lawmaker who wishes to judge the plants’ profitability.”
Despite being among the most efficient and reliable units in the nation’s nuclear fleet, Dresden and Byron face revenue shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars because of declining energy prices. 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. As a result of these market rules, Exelon Generation’s LaSalle and Braidwood nuclear stations in Illinois, each of which house two nuclear units and together employ more than 1,500 skilled workers, are also at high risk for premature closure.
While retirement preparations are underway, employees will continue to operate the plants at world-class levels of safety and operational excellence until they are decommissioned. Exelon Generation will work to place affected plant employees at other Exelon facilities or help them transition to positions outside the company, wherever possible.