CHICAGO — While Illinois and the world adjusted to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Exelon Generation’s Illinois nuclear fleet produced a record-breaking amount of reliable, carbon-free electricity to ensure hospitals, nursing homes, businesses and vital infrastructure had the power needed to help Americans combat the virus.
“The reliable generation of electricity is important in any year, but in 2020 that job became even more vital as every facet of our lives was challenged by the pandemic,” said Dave Rhoades, Chief Nuclear Officer of Exelon Generation. “Our frontline, essential workers battled weather extremes of heat and cold and multiple storms in 2020, all while adjusting to new procedures and safety measures brought on by COVID-19. Our mission is to safely deliver carbon-free, reliable energy for customers and we’re grateful to our employees for accomplishing that goal.”
In Illinois last year, Exelon Generation’s Byron and Dresden stations each set world records for shortest refueling outage duration for pressurized water reactors and boiling water reactors, the respective reactor type of each facility. The Braidwood, Clinton, LaSalle and Quad Cities stations also set annual records for the amount of electricity produced at each station. The company’s six Illinois nuclear plants generate more than half of the state’s electricity and nearly 90 percent of its carbon-free energy.
Exelon Generation’s nuclear plants, which are located in Illinois, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania, produced nearly 150 million megawatt-hours of zero-emissions energy in 2020, the equivalent of taking 32 million cars off the road. The units’ capacity factor, a metric used to measure the percentage of time units operate, was 95.4 percent, significantly higher than other energy sources. Planned refueling and maintenance outages account for much of the offline time.
This is the third consecutive year Exelon’s planned refueling outages averaged 22 days or fewer. Electricians, pipe fitters, welders, carpenters, laborers and other workers from union halls play a critical role in completing the tasks, inspections and other maintenance activities during outages to get the reactors back online producing electricity.
“Exelon provides thousands of jobs for highly-skilled union workers across Northern Illinois,” said Terry McGoldrick, President of the International Brother of Electrical Workers Local 15. “The highly skilled, hard work of these employees ensures Illinois’ nuclear power plants operate safely and provide the region with reliable, carbon-free power.”
Exelon Generation has announced the planned retirement of both its Byron and Dresden plants in Northern Illinois due to market policies that fail to compensate nuclear for the carbon-free characteristic of the energy produced by the stations, Exelon officials stated in a press release. Byron and Dresden, which are scheduled to be shut down this fall, together employ 1,500 employees and produce 30 percent of Illinois’ carbon-free power.