WARRENVILLE — Exelon Generation issued a press release on Wednesday stating it is “moving quickly to fill 650 vacant positions across the state and jumpstart more than $300 million in capital projects over the next five years” at its Illinois nuclear stations. The move comes after the Illinois General Assembly passed sweeping clean energy legislation earlier this month.
“With this landmark legislation in place, we are moving quickly to restaff and refuel all of our nuclear plants for 24/7 operation, producing carbon-free, baseload electricity for more than 10 million homes and businesses,” said Dave Rhoades, Exelon Generation’s Chief Nuclear Officer. “These plants are not only important for the clean energy they produce, but they are massive economic engines for their local communities, contributing more than $1.6 billion to Illinois’ GDP each year.”
Byron Station immediately began refueling Unit 1 after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the clean energy legislation.
“While the nuclear support provision represents less than 20 percent of the cost of the overall legislation in the coming years, it has an outsized impact on the state’s climate and economic goals. Saving the plants preserves two-thirds of the state’s clean energy, avoids a 70 percent rise in emissions, protects 28,000 direct and indirect jobs, and prevents a $480 million increase in annual energy prices for consumers,” the press release said.
“With the legislation having taken effect, Byron Station plans to invest more than $140 million into the plant in the next five years on projects overhauling a main generator, replacing large transformers, upgrading a fiber optic control system and replacing various pumps, motors and piping in the plant. Most of the projects will occur during refueling outages starting next year that will include more than 1,500 electricians, pipe fitters, welders, carpenters and other trades people coming to Byron from across Illinois to perform the work,” the release said.
“We’re incredibly pleased to see all the union contract workers at Byron Station helping the full-time employees refuel Unit 1,” said Byron Mayor John Rickard. “It would have been terrible for the environment and devastating for our community had the plant been allowed to shut down. We’re relieved the plant gets to continue supporting our community with jobs, philanthropy and tax funding for our schools and essential services, while producing clean energy at a time when clean energy is needed more than ever.”
Pritzker was joined by environmental and social justice activists, union representatives and lawmakers from both parties as he signed the law that he said aims to phase out carbon emissions from the energy sector by 2045 while diversifying the renewable energy workforce.
He described the energy bill, Senate Bill 2408, as “the most significant step Illinois has taken in a generation toward a reliable, renewable, affordable and clean energy future.”
Specifically, the bill forces fossil fuel plants offline between 2030 and 2045, depending on the source and carbon emissions level, although the Illinois Commerce Commission, Illinois Power Agency and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency would have the authority to alter plant closure timelines in order to ensure energy grid reliability.
It subsidizes three nuclear plants with $694 million paid over a period of five years, and increases subsidies for renewable energy by more than $350 million annually. The latter is the driving piece in an effort to increase state’s renewables output from 7% to 8% of the energy mix currently to 40% by 2030 and 50% by 2040.
Another goal aims for 100% carbon-free energy by 2050, elevating the importance of the nuclear plants, which will continue to operate as a result of the massive subsidy.
Estimates for the cost of the bill have ranged from $3 or $4 monthly added to ratepayer bills, according to the Citizens Utility Board, to $15, according to senior advocacy group AARP. In terms of percentages, bill sponsor Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, said residential electric bills would increase by about 3% to 4%, commercial bills by about 5% to 6% and industrial bills by about 7% to 8%.
Large business and industry groups such as the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and Illinois Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill because of its effects on businesses. But advocates argued that the advent of more renewables will lower residential bills over time, creating savings for ratepayers as the cheaper renewables become more widely available.
Dresden’s Unit 2 refueling outage will occur in November, and the station has nearly $170 million in capital projects planned over the next five years, including upgrades to six feedwater heat exchange vessels, significant refurbishment of a main generator, electrical component overhauls, replacement of closed cooling piping and revamping nuclear instrumentation circuit components. As with Byron, the work on these projects will be performed during refueling outages by union personnel.
“Exelon refueling outages put thousands of people to work in Illinois, providing jobs to skilled local and regional union and tradespeople,” said Terry McGoldrick, President and Business Manager of IBEW Local 15. “Keeping these plants open was the right decision, and I’m pleased the General Assembly made this investment in the future of our workforce, our communities and our nuclear plants.”
“Byron and Dresden will also soon begin the first of multiple new training classes for dozens of licensed operators who will become the next generation of employees operating the plants and helping to keep our state’s air clean,” the release said.
People interested in applying for positions at Exelon Generation can visit the careers page on Exeloncorp.com and search for nuclear.
Exelon says its Illinois nuclear fleet produces more than 50 percent of the state’s electricity. The fleet includes Braidwood Generating Station in Will County, Byron Generating Station in Ogle County, Clinton Power Station in DeWitt County, Dresden Generating Station in Grundy County, LaSalle County Generating Station and Quad Cities Generating Station in Rock Island County.
Source: The Daily Chronicle