Exelon Generation, owner and operator of the US Byron and Dresden NPPs, said on 28 July that it will file Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Reports (PSDARs) with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), detailing long-term site restoration plans for both stations after they shut down this autumn. The filings are among the final steps in retiring the plants, which face revenue shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars due to low energy prices and market policies that give fossil fuel plants an unfair competitive advantage, Exelon said. Without a legislative solution, these same market inequities will force the company to close its Braidwood and LaSalle nuclear facilities sometime in the next few years. 

With the PSDARs complete, Exelon Generation is now preparing to issue job reduction notifications to employees impacted by the plant shutdowns. Staffing at the plants will fall from nearly 1,500 employees when the plant retirements were announced last August, to just 30-40 employees over the next 10 years. 

With just weeks to go before the first of the plants permanently closes, policymakers continue working on legislation that would preserve all four of the plants as part of a comprehensive plan to maintain and grow clean-energy jobs, keep energy bills affordable and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The PSDAR filing with NRC is one of the few remaining regulatory milestones required before closing the plants. Byron is scheduled to shut down in September and Dresden in November.

“With no signs of a breakthrough on clean energy legislation in Springfield, we have no choice but to take these final steps in preparation for shutting down the plants,” said Exelon Generation Chief Nuclear Officer Dave Rhoades. “We will never stop fighting for policies to preserve Illinois’ nuclear fleet, knowing that the minute these plants close our customers will experience dirtier air and higher energy costs. But with time running out, we must plan for the future and do everything we can to prepare our employees and the communities they serve for what lies ahead.”

As part of the decommissioning process, Exelon Generation has up to 60 years to restore Byron and Dresden, which includes transporting used fuel to long-term storage, decontaminating and removing plant components and razing the remaining buildings. 

PJM, the regional grid operator, has confirmed that both plants can retire without putting overall grid reliability at risk. However, the massive loss of in-state clean generation means Illinois will have to rely more on fossil energy located in environmental justice communities and in surrounding states to meet the needs of Illinois.

Image: Exelon's Byron Nuclear Generating Station