By Shane Nicholson
Chicago-based Exelon Energy has been making noise lately about potentially closing three Illinois nuclear facilities if costs are not reduced, among them the Byron generating station.
Mayors from six communities authored a letter to Gov. Bruce Rauner this week to highlight their concerns over the potential closing of plants in their area including Oregon Mayor Thomas Stone, Sr.
“This would be a lot different area if it wasn’t for that nuclear plant,” said Stone in a phone interview Thursday.
“Just look at Byron, look at what it’s done for their community, the schools and the forest preserve.
“You’d be looking at a much smaller community without that plant.”
Exelon has said that its nuclear plants are struggling to compete against clean energy sources such as solar and wind that receive tax breaks and other government incentives.
At a press conference in Springfield Thursday the company claimed it may have to raise the charges on ComEd and Ameren bills across the state to cover losses at nuclear facilities.
However, Citizens Utility Board (CUB), a consumer advocacy group, highlighted that Exelon has raked in nearly $20 billion in profits over the last decade.
“The solution to Illinois’ energy issues requires a much more comprehensive and long-term plan than Exelon’s proposal, which would raise ComEd and Ameren electric bills by an estimated $300 million a year,” said CUB in a statement.
“Anything resembling a full-fledged bailout of Exelon’s nuclear plants would be radioactive for our pocketbooks, and should be rejected by the state.”
A recent Chicago Tribune report showed that ComEd has spent more than $60 million collected from customers over the past eight years on donations to various groups including politically affiliated organizations.
CEO Anne Pramaggiore received the “Woman of Achievement” award at a 2012 cocktail reception in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. The event was supported by $10,000 from ComEd.
Back in Northern Illinois the fight to keep the Byron facility open has much larger implications for area communities.
Stone hopes to use an upcoming meeting of Northern Illinois mayors to brainstorm solutions to present downstate to keep the plant up and running.
“This is one of the cleanest and safest plants around,” he said.
“The City of Oregon itself doesn’t receive funds from the power plant but our parks and schools do.
“I’m sure we’ll have more to talk about with the plant since this news has all come out,” Stone continued.
“To us it would be quite a shock if they decided to do anything with this plant.”