Exelon mulls closure of unprofitable Quad Cities nuclear plant
CHICAGO — The owner of Illinois’ 11 nuclear reactors must decide next month whether to close its Quad Cities plant, one of three generating stations Exelon Corp. has said are in danger of closing if lawmakers don’t approve a surcharge on electric bills to boost profits.
Exelon says it should be rewarded for producing reliable, carbon-free electricity that will help Illinois meet an Obama administration mandate to reduce greenhouse gases. But opponents say ratepayers should not have to bail out an unprofitable plant for a private company that’s still making money.
The company learned that one of the at-risk plants — in Byron in northern Illinois — is going to make millions after a recent electricity reliability auction, while the future of the third plant, Clinton in the central part of the state, is still in doubt.
Here’s a look at where things stand:
Q: Why is Quad Cities unprofitable?
A: Exelon says the two-reactor plant, which began commercial operation in 1973, is losing money because of higher costs to move electricity along transmission lines shared with wind power and increased competition from lower-cost natural gas-fired plants.
Transmission lines near Quad Cities are not as extensive as those closer to Chicago and also move wind-generated electricity coming from Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska. That sometimes threatens to overload the lines, leading to higher costs to transmit electricity through the congestion, said Tim Hanley, senior vice president of operations at Exelon Nuclear.