CLINTON – There are no plans to close the Clinton Power Station.
At least, not yet.
But a new report commissioned by Chicago-based Exelon Nuclear, which runs the nuclear power plant, spells out in grim detail the devastating economic meltdown that would result if the station were to be shutdown.
The Clinton station employs more than 600 workers with a payroll of more than $50 million. And it pumps millions into local tax rolls, the biggest chunk going to the Clinton School District.
Exelon runs six nuclear power stations with 11 reactors in Illinois and the report, compiled by the Nuclear Energy Institute, says three of those facilities: Clinton, and the Byron Generating Station in Ogle County and the Quad Cities Generating Station in Rock Island County, are in trouble.
The report says they are facing “a perfect storm” of problems ranging from a struggling economy to having to compete with unusually low natural gas prices. It also talks of “the unintended consequences of current energy policies.” That isn't spelled out, but Exelon has spoken previously of competing with wind farms getting federal tax credits.
The report warns the situation for Clinton, Byron and Quad Cities is dire: “A combination of economic and policy factors has created potentially fatal economic headwinds or these three plants,” it states
The report calculates the economic output costs of all three stations closing prematurely, with the loss of thousands of jobs connected directly and indirectly to the plants, at $3.6 billion. It says those losses would continue to build and, by 2030, hit $4.8 billion. “The number of direct and secondary jobs lost peaks in the fifth year after the plants close: 13,300 jobs lost in Illinois,” the report continues.
“Losses would reverberate for decades after the premature plant closures, and host communities may never fully recover.”
Exelon spokesman Brett Nauman emphasized Wednesday that “there are no current plans right now to do anything like that,” when asked directly about the risk of the Clinton power station closing.
Asked why Exelon had gone public with such a grim analysis of what the future would look like if the troubled plants were gone, he said: “I would just say we want all of our Illinois stakeholders... policy makers, customers and the people who live in the communities where the power stations are at, we really want them to have a better understanding of the value these facilities bring; not just to the state's economy but to their local economies as well.”
Why was the report was being released now? Nauman said the “challenging economic situation for these plants” prompted the timing.
Published reports elsewhere have claimed Clinton is among a group of Exelon stations that have been losing money for years. There are even claims power prices have at times dropped so low Exelon was having to pay to feed the power produced into the grid.
Whatever the situation, those living in Clinton harbor no doubts about the economic nuclear winter that would descend if the power station shutdown. “It would be devastating,” said Dexter Peterson, president of the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce. “We're a small town and a lot of the people out there (at the plant) live here and in the surrounding areas.”
He said rumors have swirled about the fate of the plant but closure fears had receded recently. Peterson, an agent at the insurance company owned by his father, said the plant was still hiring and showed no outward signs of trouble. “And they've always been good to the area, generous with donations and helping us do things,” he added.
The Clinton Power Station's operating license expires in 2026 and Exelon has not yet applied for an extension.