To meet forthcoming carbon emissions reduction targets, Illinois must preserve its existing nuclear energy facilities, Exelon Senior Vice President of Federal Regulatory Affairs and Wholesale Market Policy Kathleen Barrón said today at a policy session convened by the Illinois Commerce Commission. The forum was held to solicit expert perspectives on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule for reducing carbon emissions from existing power plants, also known as the Clean Power Plan.
“We are pleased that EPA has recognized the important environmental, reliability and economic benefits of existing nuclear power plants and is creating a regulatory incentive that values the many benefits they provide to Illinois and the businesses and families here,” Barrón said.
Economic pressures facing Illinois’ nuclear energy facilities have put some of them at risk of early closure. Barrón said that retiring the three Illinois nuclear plants at greatest risk would set the state back substantially and jeopardize its ability to meet emissions reduction targets.
“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.”
Barrón emphasized that the benefits of existing nuclear energy facilities in Illinois go beyond preventing carbon emissions to include the reliable, “always-on” nature of the energy they generate. The state’s six nuclear power plants generate 48 percent of its electricity supply – enough to meet the needs of 7 million Illinois residents.
“Our nuclear facilities nationally are available 24/7 to meet customers’ needs,” she said. “While many plants struggle to run during extreme heat or cold, when their power is needed most – as we saw during the peak of this past January’s polar vortex -- ours do not.”
Turning her attention to the state’s forthcoming implementation plan for the EPA rule, Barrón called for a compliance program that values the carbon-free attribute of nuclear, saying it would be necessary to safeguarding Illinois’ continued access to reliable, clean power.
“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.”