Exelon Makes Good on Threat—Quad Cities and Clinton Nuclear Plants to Close

Given the lack of progress on Illinois energy legislation, Exelon Corp. announced on June 2 that it would begin taking steps to permanently shut down its Quad Cities and Clinton nuclear power plants.

In a statement, the company said Clinton would close on June 1, 2017, and that Quad Cities would follow exactly one year later. The two facilities have long been rumored to be on the chopping block due to economic struggles.

“This is an extremely difficult day for the 1,500 employees who operate these plants safely and reliably every day, and the communities that depend on them for support,” said Chris Crane, Exelon president and CEO. “We have worked for several years to find a sustainable path forward in consultation with federal regulators, market operators, state policymakers, plant community leaders, labor and business leaders, as well as environmental groups and other stakeholders. Unfortunately, legislation was not passed, and now we are forced to retire the plants.”

The two stations are said to have lost a combined $800 million during the past seven years, despite being two of Exelon’s best-performing plants. The news comes on the heels of the Clinton station setting a new U.S. record for the shortest refueling outage for a boiling water reactor. It returned to full power on May 30 after only 11 days offline (Browns Ferry Unit 3 had held the record previously at 14.5 days).

Although the Illinois legislative session has not ended, Exelon said that the path forward for the “Next Generation Energy Plan” legislation—which included a “Zero Emission Standard” that would make Illinois one of the first states to recognize the zero-carbon benefits of nuclear power—is not clear. As a result, Exelon has begun taking necessary steps to shut down the two nuclear plants. The steps include:

  • Making permanent shutdown notifications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission within 30 days.
  • Terminating capital investment projects required for long-term operation of Clinton and Quad Cities.
  • Immediately taking one-time charges of $150 million to $200 million for 2016, and accelerating approximately $2 billion in depreciation and amortization through the announced shutdown dates.
  • Cancelling fuel purchases and outage planning.

The company said it has and will continue to brief the Governor’s office, legislative leaders, the Illinois Commerce Commission, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Power Agency, other relevant state agencies, and host community leaders, on developments as it executes the shutdown plan.

“We are deeply grateful for the broad support we received from policymakers, plant community leaders, labor officials and business leaders who spoke out to help keep the plants operating,” Crane said. “We wish the outcome would have been different, and we appreciate all the support this effort has received.”

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)