Illinois report says Exelon nuclear straits not so dire via Midwest Energy News

Has Exelon been crying wolf?

Or should the state intervene to help the Chicago-based corporation’s nuclear plants prevent closures that could hurt the economy and endanger the electric supply?

A 269-page report created by four Illinois state agencies and released Wednesday sheds light on these questions. The multi-faceted findings defy clear conclusions, but they generally support the idea that Illinois can weather nuclear plant closures; and such shut-downs could even bolster clean energy generation and jobs.

Exelon critics say the report is vindication, showing the company is not in crisis or deserving of government “bailouts.”

Illinois is the country’s top producer of nuclear energy, with six nuclear plants housing 11 reactors run by Exelon, which had $25 billion in operating revenues in FY2013. Nuclear plants emit no carbon dioxide and are highly reliable, as made clear during the polar vortex a year ago when frigid temperatures meant disabled coal plants and interrupted natural gas supplies.


Good for the environment?

Nuclear energy can pose a conundrum for environmentalists, since it provides power with zero carbon emissions, yet it also raises serious concerns regarding disposal of nuclear waste and uranium mining. The Illinois report did not analyze these upstream and downstream facets of nuclear energy, but focused on the carbon emission impacts if the nuclear plants were closed.


Environmental Law & Policy Center executive director Howard Learner said in a statement that the report confirms his long-held opinion that the Exelon plantsaren’t economically competitive and can be retired without added costs to Illinois consumers, without hurting reliability, and with more job creation, by growing clean renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

“This report confirms that the competitive power market is working to hold down Illinois energy costs,” he added. “We shouldn’t bail out Exelon’s old, uncompetitive nuclear plants. Instead, we should invest in new renewable energy, like wind and solar, and energy efficiency to grow a cleaner Illinois energy future.”

Kraft said nuclear critics are still furious about the process resulting from the House resolution, which he characterized as “panic-peddling” driven by “half-truths.” He was upset there was no public input or oversight involved in the agencies’ report, but he is encouraged by the result nonetheless.

“Even though Exelon did their best to convince everyone that the sky is falling here in Illinois,” he said, “Even a poorly mandated, non-funded, abstract-model-heavy analysis could not reach that conclusion.”

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