As more nuclear plants close, Illinois bill seeks better market conditions for power source
Three nuclear plants in the Midwest are scheduled to cease operations permanently over the next two years, on the heels of other recent, unexpected closures of plants around the country, including Kewaunee in Wisconsin.
Nebraska’s Fort Calhoun nuclear station closed at the end of October, and the Quad Cities and Clinton plants in Illinois are on the chopping block, pending action from the state legislature this fall. The owners of the plants have cited economic conditions in their decisions to cease operations — specifically, cheap natural gas and the failure of energy markets to reward nuclear with the same zero-carbon emissions credit given to renewable energy sources.
Shuttering a nuclear plant is not a simple task and, in some cases, comes with economic and environmental consequences. At a recent forum on nuclear energy organized by the University of Illinois, Illinois Sen. Donne Trotter said that the closure of the Clinton and Quad Cities plants would result in the loss of $21 million in property taxes, $1.2 billion in economic activity and more than 4,000 jobs.
Trotter is the co-sponsor of legislation (SB 1585) that would establish a new state energy plan and improve market conditions for nuclear power. As of late October, he was hoping to pass the legislation during the Illinois General Assembly’s fall veto session.
The Next Generation Energy Plan would establish a Zero Emissions Standard, a legal framework for providing financial support to nuclear plants. This standard would require the Illinois Power Agency (which develops electricity procurement plans for residential and small commercial customers) to procure contracts for zero-emissions credits from nuclear utilities.
Crain’s Chicago Business reported in late October that a draft version of the bill would use the “social cost of carbon” (a formula developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to estimate the benefits of carbon dioxide reductions) to calculate the base subsidies for nuclear plants. Additional adjustments would then be made based on market conditions.
If the legislation does not pass, Exelon has promised to close the Clinton plant in 2017 and the Quad Cities plant in 2018. With the closures, both communities would lose not only their largest job provider, but also a major tax base.
“When you take that kind of money out of the local economy and schools, it’s really going to hurt,” says Illinois Rep. Pat Verschoore, who represents his state on The Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Radioactive Materials Transportation Committee.
The Fort Calhoun nuclear plant in Nebraska, which employed about 700 workers, officially closed at the end of October. Fort Calhoun was one of two nuclear plants in the state and produced a quarter of the state’s clean electricity.
The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency receives revenue from the state’s nuclear plants as reimbursement for developing radiological emergency preparedness plans and conducting training for first responders. With the closure of Fort Calhoun, funding for the plans and training will be cut in half.
Now that energy generation at Fort Calhoun has stopped, the plant will undergo a $1 billion decommissioning and decontamination to remove its nuclear fuel and place it in temporary on-site storage, a process that could take up to 60 years to complete. As at four other shutdown reactors in the Midwest (Zion in Illinois, Big Rock Point in Michigan, and La Crosse and Kewaunee in Wisconsin), the spent fuel will remain at Fort Calhoun until a centralized storage facility or a permanent repository for the nation’s waste is established. (Nuclear energy customers in the Midwest have contributed over $5 billion to a federal fund that is earmarked for construction of a repository or centralized storage facility.)
In January, the U.S. Department of Energy launched a national effort to identify communities that would consent to hosting a storage or disposal site. CSG’s Midwestern Radioactive Materials Transportation Committee is involved in developing best practices for transportation of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste as part of DOE’s project.
|Stateline Midwest: November 2016||3.45 MB|