BYRON, Ill. (AP) – A new report from Northern Illinois University says closing the Byron Generating Station will result in the loss of more 2,300 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of economic activity.
Closing the nuclear power plant will put roughly 720 people out of work and strip $97.5 million in annual employee compensation from the local economy, according to the economic impact study prepared by Brian Harger, a senior research specialist at NIU. But it could also lead to the loss of about 890 jobs from vendors and suppliers at Byron and an additional 700 jobs dependent on plant employees spending in the local economy.
It would also lead to the loss of $38 million a year in property tax revenue that supports public bodies like the Byron School District. According to the report, the plant’s total contribution to the Ogle County economy is estimated to be $338 million, or 17% of the county’s gross domestic product.
“Quite simply, the impact would be enormous, rippling across this whole area,” Byron schools Superintendent Buster Barton said in a news release.
Exelon announced in late August that it plans to retire the Byron station in September 2021 and the Dresden Generating Station in Morris two months later.
Nuclear power plants have struggled to compete with the cheap power being produced from shale gas, often extracted through hydraulic fracking. In its announcement, Exelon pressed state lawmakers to take over a critical part of establishing energy prices in order to allow carbon-free sources of energy like nuclear plants to compete with natural gas and coal plants.
The company said that despite public support for clean energy resources, Dresden and Byron have faced shortcomings in revenue because of market rules that allow fossil fuel plants to underbid them.
In response to the news of the plant’s retirement, the Byron Board of Education partnered with other community leaders to form the the Byron Station Response Committee, which is working to keep the plant open.
“We will need an all-hands-on-deck approach as the process of saving the plant moves from Ogle County to our elected leaders in Springfield,” Ogle County Board member Zach Oltmanns said in a news release.
The study shows that 75% of the plant’s employees live within Ogle, Winnebago and Lee counties.
“The closure of the Byron Station would have a huge impact not only on Byron, but on the region as a whole,” Oltmanns said.
For every 100 jobs at the plant, an additional 221 jobs are supported in other industries such as hospitals, restaurants and retail, the study shows.
The committee realizes that the best chance of blocking the plant’s closure lies the General Assembly. Gov. JB Pritzker made energy legislation a top priority before the coronavirus pandemic hit, but he has said any legislation must protect ratepayers from burdensome increases.
The Byron station’s Unit 1 reactor came online in 1985. The second reactor followed in 1987. The plant generates enough electricity to power more than 2.3 million homes, according to Exelon.
Source: Rockford Register Star, https://bit.ly/2FTPMQK