Nuclear plants at full power in extreme heat

CHICAGO — While the sun beat down on Illinois last week and over the weekend, sending temperatures and energy demand soaring, Exelon Generation’s six Illinois nuclear plants operated at full power, producing enough carbon-free electricity for 11 million homes and businesses.

Exelon officials say the sustained energy production helped keep prices stable throughout the heatwave.

“Our zero-carbon nuclear energy facilities remain online when customers need us most, during extreme weather,” said Exelon Generation Chief Nuclear Officer Bryan Hanson. “I want to thank the thousands of men and women working at our plants who kept our fleet operating during this period of high electricity demand. Our nuclear facilities are among the safest and most reliable in the country because of our dedicated, highly trained employees.”

Carbon-free nuclear energy not only provides the electricity needed for air conditioning during extreme heat, it does so without releasing the harmful carbon emissions like those from fossil fuel plants, Exelon officials said. The release of harmful carbon emissions makes the already poor air quality in Illinois even worse for seniors and others at risk of health problems related to air pollution. Always-on nuclear energy reduces the need for carbon-emitting peaker plants to come online during periods of high demand, which can increase market prices for electricity, they said.

More than half of Illinois’ electricity is generated by nuclear energy, which was online more than 94 percent of the time in Illinois in 2018, including during extreme weather events. In fact, nearly 90 percent of Illinois’ carbon-free power is produced by nuclear energy facilities, preventing the average annual equivalent of 15 million cars’ worth of carbon dioxide from entering earth’s atmosphere. There are only 10.4 million vehicles currently registered in Illinois.

Exelon Generation workers spend months ensuring that backup generators and spare equipment are ready for extreme weather. This spring, operators and maintenance personnel inspected mechanical systems, tested electrical equipment, and aligned plant systems to prepare all Exelon Generation-operated facilities for extreme temperatures. These efforts are in addition to the many equipment upgrades and “summer readiness” maintenance activities performed during refueling outages.

All of Exelon Generation’s 22 reactors remained online during the recent heat wave that hit across the country.

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