Nuclear power in Illinois is getting a new lease on life after the state’s governor signed a law this week approving subsidies for two economically-troubled power plants.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) on Wednesday signed a bill that provides around $700 million in credits for the Byron and Dresden nuclear power plants. The subsidies, which are spread out over a five year period starting June 2022, should be a much-needed lifeline for the Exelon plants, which the utility company in August said it would shut down.
The bill passed the state Senate on a 37-17 vote Monday and cleared the state House last week on an 83-33 vote.
Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm chimed in on Twitter Thursday to congratulate the Prairie State on “preserving thousands of good-paying jobs all while showing just what bold state-level action can do to usher in the clean energy future.”
Thanks to the leadership of @GovPritzker & legislators, #Illinois will keep a number of nuclear power plants online—preserving thousands of good-paying jobs all while showing just what bold state-level action can do to usher in the clean energy future. https://t.co/fUwxS6MG1W 1/
— Secretary Jennifer Granholm (@SecGranholm) September 15, 2021
For industry, Illinois’s plant subsidies are music to the ears. Exelon, in a press release Monday, commended the bill’s passage and said it would immediately refuel the Byron and Dresden plants.
The American Nuclear Society (ANS) also welcomed the new subsidies in a Monday statement.
“As the voice for nuclear engineers and scientists, we thank Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the General Assembly, Exelon, and the Climate Jobs Illinois labor coalition for coming together to safeguard Illinois’ environment, economy and power grid,” ANS said. “We urge the governor to quickly sign the bill.”
Maria Korsnick, president and CEO of the prominent trade group Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), said in a statement Monday that the subsidies “com[e] at a critical time as Illinois looks to achieve its clean energy goals.”
“It is encouraging to see states like Illinois take meaningful steps to value all carbon-free energy sources, including nuclear, as essential tools in addressing the climate crisis,” Korsnick said.
In Washington, the Joe Biden administration is pushing its own infrastructure legislation that would allocate roughly $6 billion to a federal nuclear credits program. If the Biden admin’s subsidies became law, the Department of Energy would “establish a process” to evaluate bids from nuclear plants that post a net operating loss. The infrastructure package cleared the Senate in August, and should get a vote in the House later this month.
Although Byron and Dresden are off the chopping block, nuclear plants across the country are closing at a rapid pace. Michigan’s Palisades plant is slated to shutter early next year. In New York, Indian Point Energy Center went dark at the end of April.