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Illinois Lawmakers work on a solution to keep Byron Nuclear Power Plant open

Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 9:52 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Time is ticking to save the Byron Nuclear Plant as Illinois lawmakers and local leaders work together to find a solution to keep it running.

In August, Exelon announced it would retire the Byron and Dresden power plants by the fall of 2021, but that isn’t sitting well for leaders.

“This is a huge engine of growth for our region,” Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said.

A recent tour of the Byron Nuclear Power Plant with other Illinois lawmakers helped McNamara better understand why saving it is so important.

“Every single room I went to there was someone from Rockford there. The pride they have in work, the pride they have in delivering electricity to 2.3 million households that shined through,” McNamara said.

Since then, McNamara has pushed state senator Michael Hastings who leads the public utilities and energy committee to work on a solution called the “Fixed Resource Requirement.”

“It would prioritize Illinois renewable energy portfolio first before having to go to the outside market. It is a really interesting process and one of the first of its kind, Hastings said.

Republicans like Representative Andrew Chesney believe Hastings idea is going to be a hard sell when it goes before the general assembly for a vote.

“I think everything is best in the private sector. I don’t think the government should step in and play that type of role think it is good in the hands of private business. Better outputs, better productivity, better results,” Chesney said.

While Chesney may not agree with Hastings, he does believe the plant should stay open.

“It’s sustainable energy but also jobs, 700 jobs in the Byron plant that people count on and they play a lot in taxes so I think that it makes sense to put together a bipartisan bill that works for everybody,” Chesney said.

The plant was set to run until 2046 but Exelon is cutting the timeline short as it faces a significant financial deficit.

If the Byron Plant does close in September, it would be the first plant Exelon has closed in Illinois since 1998, when the Zion Station was closed after operating since 1971.

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