The Illinois Senate passed a bill early 1 September that aims to prevent closure in autumn of the Byron and Dresden NPPs. The legislation will now go to the House but it remains uncertain whether the chamber will bring it to a vote. The Senate voted 39-16 to pass a wide-ranging energy bill, with two senators voting “present.” The bill contains $694 million in carbon mitigation credits for nuclear plants which generate virtually emissions-free electricity.

Exelon Generation, owner and operator of the NPPs, said in July unless the legislation is adopted, 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. The Byron NPP, comprising two pressurised water reactors with capacities of 1164MWe and 1136MWe will close in September 2021, and the two unit Dresden plant with two boiling water reactors with capacities of 894MWe and 879MWe in November 2021. Dresden is licensed to operate for another decade and Byron for another 20 years.  

With just weeks to go before the first of the plants permanently closes, policymakers continued working on legislation that would preserve 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. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, a Democrat, said in a statement his “office looks forward to working with members of the House to finalise an energy package that puts consumers and climate first”.

Gina McCarthy, President Joe Biden’s climate adviser, has said some existing NPPs are “absolutely essential” if the USA is to achieve its goal of decarbonising the electric grid by 2035. Incentives are included in the infrastructure bills being considered by the US Congress, but Exelon said these would come too late to save Byron and Dresden.

Negotiations have been ongoing for years on the deal that includes a bailout for NPPs, closure of coal-fired plants, investments in wind and solar energy and ethics measures in the wake of a utility bribery scandal involving Exelon subsidiary Commonwealth Edison. Previous attempts have hit obstacles, including a dispute earlier this summer between unions and environmental groups. The proposed legislation  faces an uncertain future as the House adjourned hours before the Senate without considering it has set no date to return. Any House changes would then have to go back to the Senate for approval. Moreover Pritzker is seeking further amendments to the legislation.

“The governor’s office looks forward to working with members of the House to finalise an energy package that puts consumers and climate first,” Pritzker's spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in a statement.