Exelon closing Morris, Byron nuclear plants; blames market rules benefiting fossil fuel companies

Sen. Durbin blames Trump Administration policies; Kinzinger blames Democrats
MORRIS, Ill. (WLS) -- Exelon Generation announced Thursday it is retiring its Byron and Dresden generating stations in fall of 2021.

The Byron location will close in September of next year, and Dresden, in Morris, will close in November of next year.

Together, the units provide energy to more than four million homes.

Dresden is licensed to operate for another decade and Byron for another 20 years, Exelon said. Together, they employ more than 1,500 full-time employees and 2,000 supplemental workers during refueling outages.

"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."

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, Exelon said.

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 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, the company said.

In response to Exelon's decision, state Sen. Michael E. Hastings, D-Frankfort, who chairs the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee, released the following statement:

"It's truly unfortunate that Exelon has announced two plant closures during the middle of a pandemic. The negative economic impact of these closures cannot be understated. The Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee has been committed to working on legislation and consumer assistance since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and we remain committed to working with the men and women of organized labor and all stakeholders to find solutions to secure the future of clean energy in Illinois."

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, released the following statement:

"The closure of Byron and Dresden Generating Stations will have significant impacts on the local economy and Illinois workers. In the days and months ahead, I am committed to fighting for these jobs and helping to create additional good paying jobs in these communities. ... Unfortunately, for the past three and a half years, President Trump and Congressional Republicans have pursued policies that hurt nuclear energy and the thousands of good paying jobs that they support."

Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger called the closings a "gut punch" to the people of Illinois. He blamed corruption among Democratic leaders in Springfield.
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