News Local/State

Exelon Threatens Plant Closures

In this March 16, 2011 file photo, steam escapes from the Exelon Corp. nuclear plant near Byron, Illinois.

In this March 16, 2011 file photo, steam escapes from Exelon Corp.'s nuclear plant in Byron, Ill. Illinois lawmakers are considering clean-energy legislation backed by Exelon Corp. to keep three unprofitable nuclear plants afloat. (AP Photo/Robert Ray, File)

Exelon is amping up its threat to close one or more of its Clinton, Quad Cities and Byron nuclear power plants, unless there's help from the legislature.

The company says it's not a bailout and instead argues it's trying to level the playing field. Illinois already gives some incentives for renewable sources, like solar and wind energy.

Supporters of Exelon's measure, like Democratic State Rep. Larry Walsh, Jr. of Joliet, say nuclear power deserves that push.

"Nuclear energy plants provide Illinois with a reliable, carbon-free solution for their energy needs," Walsh said. "And we need to do all we can to preserve these plants."

Supporters also cite the thousands of jobs that the Exelon nuclear plants provide. Exelon operates six nuclear plants in Illinois, but says its Clinton, Quad Cities and Byron facilities are not profitable.

Exelon wants what it calls a "low carbon" portfolio standard. Basically, it's seeking to require the utilities that get power to your home to buy more of the power that its nuclear plants produce. Qualifying renewable energy producers like solar and wind energy, could apply for the low carbon portfolio standard as well.

Exelon says its plan would only increase customers' electric bills by only a few dollars and in return protect jobs that are important to the state's economy.

Exelon employees say they want to make sure the plants don't close so they can keep their jobs.

Busloads of nuclear plant workers came to the State Capitol Wednesday asking lawmakers to pass the measure.

There are other, competing plans before the General Assembly, including one for a strictly "renewable" portfolio standard. Critics of the Exelon proposal say the company is basically trying to make higher profits.