The Illinois Senate had adopted an energy policy reform to move the state toward a carbon-free future, with a major component of the package keeping the Byron nuclear power station operational only hours before Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) said it would begin shutting it down.

Byron Nuclear Plant
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Senatorial Approval

Senators approved the measure 37-17 on Sept. 13; 36 votes were required for approval. Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker supports the bill, which gives Byron and the state's other nuclear power facilities a respite for the time being.

ComEd announced on Monday that it was planning to refuel its 2,300-MW Byron and 1,800-MW Dresden nuclear reactors after filing decommissioning plans with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year.

The company also stated that it will "move to fill hundreds of empty posts and resume capital projects necessary for long-term operations."

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Million Dollars' Worth of Carbon Mitigation

The measure enacted on Monday includes over $700 million in carbon mitigation credits for three ComEd facilities, all of which were built more than 40 years ago. Exelon, ComEd's parent company, stated that Byron might be shut down as early as Monday. The firm had said that the Dresden facility would be shut down in November and that its 2,350-MW Braidwood plant would also be shut down.

POWER awarded the Byron facility a Top Plant award in 2020.

With Pritzker's signing, Illinois will be the first Midwestern state to have a binding 100% carbon-free energy requirement in place by 2045. Clean energy supporters hailed the bill as a step toward making the state a leader in what they called a fair, clean energy strategy.

Advocating Clean Energy

The Benefits of Using Solar Generators as a Renewable Energy Source
(Photo : The Benefits of Using Solar Generators as a Renewable Energy Source)

In a statement provided to POWER, J.C. Kibbey, Illinois clean energy advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said, "Illinois is the first state in the country with a climate action plan that centers equity and economic investments in clean energy to help communities that need them the most..The Climate and Equitable Employment Act may serve as a national model for how a clean energy transition can generate jobs, protect communities, and hold utilities accountable."

At least five states, including Illinois, have established clean energy goals and credit schemes to encourage nuclear power reactors to provide zero-carbon electricity. For example, in 2016, Illinois approved a bill granting Exelon's Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear reactors ten years of zero-emissions certificates.

Zero-Carbon Goals

Renewable Energy Provides Lower Carbon Emissions Compared to Nuclear Energy
(Photo : Pixabay)

In recognition of nuclear power as the country's greatest zero-carbon resource, the Biden administration and Congress have indicated an interest in launching a government program that would provide tax credits or other incentives to nuclear power facilities.

A $6 billion four-year credit scheme for nuclear reactors is included in the bipartisan Senate infrastructure package. In addition, as part of their infrastructure and social program investment package, Democrats want to have production tax credits for nuclear reactors.

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