Nuclear Matters underlines need for Illinois nuclear plants

January 27, 2015 02:32 PM Eastern Standard Time

CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A diverse set of stakeholders convened to support the continued operation of Illinois’ existing nuclear energy plants at an event hosted by the City Club of Chicago today.

Several members of Nuclear Matters’ Leadership Council participated in the event, including Nuclear Matters Co-Chair, former Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol M. Browner and President of North America’s Building Trades Unions Sean McGarvey. They were joined by Doug Scott, former chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, and by moderator Paul Green, director of the Institute for Politics and Arthur Rubloff Professor of Policy Studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

“Nuclear energy is important to Illinois given that existing nuclear plants produce nearly half of the state’s electricity and provide important benefits in the form of economic growth, employment, reliability and cleaner air,” Bayh said. “Illinois should continue its tradition of being a bellwether by ensuring its existing nuclear energy plants continue operating, signaling to the rest of the country that this critical energy source should maintain its integral role in America’s diverse energy mix.”

“Thanks to Illinois’ nuclear facilities, as well as wind and solar, Illinois is number one in carbon-free energy production,” Browner said. “This is a position that stakeholders should not take lightly, and should do everything they can to maintain for the sake of cleaner air. The bottom line is that without the existing nuclear fleet, it would be difficult for Illinois to meet any carbon reduction goals.”

“Nuclear facilities in Illinois are vital to the state’s economic security, providing nearly 28,000 direct and indirect jobs and supporting families across the state,” McGarvey said. “Existing nuclear energy plants also inject nearly $9 billion directly into the local economy, underscoring their regional economic significance.”

Bayh, Browner and McGarvey pointed to the many benefits that Illinois’ six nuclear facilities provide to the state, including providing 48 percent of its electricity and 90 percent of its carbon-free electricity. Over the past decade, the state’s nuclear facilities have operated at 96 percent efficiency, which is above the average for the industry and ranks far above other types of electricity generation.

They also noted that the continued operation of these plants is challenged by a confluence of economic and policy factors. The impacts of any premature plant closures would be dire, as highlighted in a report issued earlier this month by various state agencies in response to a legislative resolution passed by the Illinois House of Representatives.

The report, “Potential Nuclear Power Plant Closings in Illinois: Impacts and Market-Based Solutions,” underscored the impacts of such closures on Illinois’ economy, energy prices and carbon emissions, and highlights the concerns that such an event would raise about the reliability of the electric grid. It concluded that the closure of Illinois’ at-risk nuclear plants would lead to substantial environmental costs of up to $18 billion stemming from increased carbon emissions, $1.8 billion annually in lost economic activity, decreased reliability, and nearly 8,000 jobs lost. The report also highlighted a number of proactive market-based solutions that the Illinois General Assembly could consider to prevent the closures, a step in the right direction towards addressing these issues.

This event is part of a series of discussions that Nuclear Matters will continue to participate in and host throughout the country as the campaign shines a light on the challenges facing America’s existing nuclear energy fleet.

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About Nuclear Matters

The mission of Nuclear Matters is to inform the public about the clear benefits that nuclear energy provides to our nation, to raise awareness of the economic challenges to nuclear energy that threaten those benefits, and to work with stakeholders to explore possible policy solutions that properly value nuclear energy as a reliable, affordable and carbon-free electricity resource that is essential to America’s energy future.

Supporters of Nuclear Matters include a range of companies and organizations in the energy industry, including Ameren Missouri, American Nuclear Insurers, Arizona Public Service Company, AREVA, Black & Veatch, POWER Burns and Roe, Centrus Energy Corp. Dominion, Duke Energy, Energy Future Holdings Corporation, Energy Northwest, Entergy Corporation, Exelon Corporation, FirstEnergy Corp., GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Lightbridge Corporation, Nebraska Public Power District, NextEra Energy Inc., Omaha Public Power District, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company, Southern Company, Tennessee Valley Authority, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation.