Exelon touts reliability of nuclear power in Illinois during pandemic, even as closures loom

Published on February 09, 2021 by Chris Galford

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A new report from Exelon Generation pointed to record reliability showcased by its Illinois nuclear power plants during the COVID-19 pandemic and used the fact as an opportunity to chide the state for policies it says will lead to two plant closures this fall.

“The reliable generation of electricity is important in any year, but in 2020 that job became even more vital as every facet of our lives was challenged by the pandemic,” Dave Rhoades, Chief Nuclear Officer of Exelon Generation, said. “Our frontline, essential workers battled weather extremes of heat and cold and multiple storms in 2020, all while adjusting to new procedures and safety measures brought on by COVID-19. Our mission is to safely deliver carbon-free, reliable energy for customers, and we’re grateful to our employees for accomplishing that goal.”

According to the company’s latest estimates, nuclear power remains Illinois’ largest carbon-free energy source. The Byron and Dresden plants in Northern Illinois alone provide 30 percent of the state’s carbon-free power. During 2020, the pair set world records for the shortest refueling outages for pressurized water reactors and boiling water reactors to date. At the same time, four other stations set annual records for the amount of electricity produced.

The six plants represent more than half of Illinois’ electricity and nearly 90 percent of its carbon-free offerings. Their efforts in 2020 also represented the third consecutive year that planned refueling outages averaged 22 days or fewer.

Exelon stressed that despite this performance, however, both the Byron and Dresden plants are still slated for retirement in the fall. It has pointed to what it calls flawed market policies that fail to compensate nuclear energy producers for their plants’ carbon-free characteristics as being responsible for those closures.