Illinois bill would ensure nuclear survival

27 February 2015

Legislation to cut carbon emissions currently before the Illinois general assembly would ensure the continued operation of the state's nuclear power plants, according to Exelon.

A coalition of Illinois labour, business and community leaders held a press conference to mark the introduction of the legislation (Image: Nuclear Power Illinois)

Bills introduced in both the state Senate and House over the past week would enact the Illinois Low Carbon Portfolio Standard, helping to reduce carbon emissions, increase renewable energy and maintain a stable and secure electricity supply in the state.

Under the proposed legislation, utilities will be required to purchase low-carbon energy credits equivalent to 70% of the utility's annual retail sales to customers within the state. Qualified sources include energy from solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, tidal, wave and clean coal.

Although the legislation would allow utilities to recover the costs associated with the purchase of low-carbon credits through charges, it would also put in place safeguards such as a consumer price cap to protect customers. It will also pave the way for future steps the state may need to take to meet the requirements of proposals by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cut power plant carbon emissions by 30% by 2030.

Bills must be read three times before the relevant Illinois legislative body before they can be passed. The Senate bill (SB 1585) and House bill (HB 3293) have both received their first reading and been passed on for committee review prior to the second reading.

Eleven nuclear reactors at six sites account for around a quarter of Illinois' generating capacity but last year the Byron, Clinton and Quad Cities power plants - a total of 5 units - were identified as at risk of possible closure when operator Exelon said it would consider closing non-profitable nuclear plants. In January, a multiagency report prepared at the behest of the Illinois House of Representatives proposed market solutions to head off the threatened closure of the reactors. The Low Carbon Portfolio Standard was one of the report's proposed measures.

That report also acknowledged the statewide potential economic and social impacts if nuclear plants were to be forced into premature closure, and a bipartisan group of legislators as well as stakeholders from the business, labour and the community have announced their support for the legislation. Senator Sue Rezin said that the proposed legislation would allow the nuclear capacity to be preserved at the same time as promoting other low-carbon energy sources, while House representative Larry Walsh said there was "simply no way" the state would be able to achieve carbon reductions or meet the EPA goals without its nuclear fleet.

Exelon senior vice president Joseph Dominguez urged state lawmakers to enact the bill into law. "Illinois cannot achieve its clean energy goals without nuclear power," he said, adding that the bill presented a cost-effective and market-based way to encourage emissions reductions while protecting the state's economy.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News