Skip to main content

Exelon Makes the Nuclear Case in Illinois

exelon-co-logo Kathleen Barrón, Exelon’s senior vice president of federal regulatory affairs and wholesale market policy, had some strong words at a policy summit held by the Illinois Commerce Commission.

“If the units at risk of closing today -- representing 43 percent of the state’s nuclear generation -- retire, they cannot be mothballed and later brought back online,” she said. “Together they represent more than 30 million metric tons of avoided carbon emissions, given that they will need to be replaced with fossil generation to provide the around-the-clock electricity needed to serve customers in the state.”

That’s true. Nuclear energy is not really properly valued for its presence in the proposed EPA climate change rule (which of course could change before it is finalized), and one consequence of that would be that shuttered nuclear plants would lead to higher carbon emissions – and cause states to miss their targets. If you consider climate change an existential issue, it doesn’t get starker.

The logical objection is this: Illinois has had nuclear reactors for a long time, so their value has already been noted. But that doesn’t paint a complete picture. if favoring renewable power through subsidies and other incentives causes nuclear energy to become relatively unprofitable, then plants that close as a result will likely be replaced by natural gas works (because baseload energy, which most renewable sources cannot supply, remains necessary). That wrecks the state’s emissions targets and provides a value to nuclear energy retroactively. The argument is: it shouldn’t be retroactive – that’s too late. It’s valuable now.

Barrón makes exactly this point:

“All zero-carbon resources should be treated similarly,” Barrón said, “and a state like Illinois that has invested in nuclear technology should be recognized for that clean energy investment.”

It certainly should. She also notes nuclear energy’s superb performance during the polar vortex earlier this year – something we’ve beat the drum on several times. But the real interest here is that Exelon has put it on the line: Illinois has a lot of nuclear capacity (a plurality, if fact, generating 47 percent of the state’s electricity) and losing it would be a loss not only for the state, but for the nation – and depending on how grand you want to get, for the world.

You can get a PowerPoint presentation about nuclear energy in Illinois (prepared by the Illinois EPA) here. It was presented at the summit.

Comments

Engineer-Poet said…
It needs to be stated directly to these policy-makers (and all of the pressure groups involved):

"These plants are essential to making any progress against carbon emissions whatsoever.  You have written policies which make them unprofitable; in effect, you are taxing them for doing good.  If they are forced to shut down, it is YOUR FAULT.  Fix the policy now, while you still can."

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.


Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …