With a new energy policy now Illinois law, Exelon has announced it is fast-tracking multiple capital projects at the Clinton and Quad-Cities nuclear plants that previously had been put on hold.
The announcement comes a week after Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the Future Energy Jobs Bill into law, ensuring the continued operations of the two plants for at least 10 years. Exelon said the capital projects will enhance long-term equipment reliability, improve safety and ensure regulatory compliance.
"Now that it’s been enacted into law, the Future Energy Jobs Bill is already starting to create jobs and economic growth for Illinois families and businesses," Bryan Hanson, Exelon Generation’s chief nuclear officer, said in a news release. He added that the $1.2 billion the plants generate in economic impact each year "will only increase once we get these large capital projects underway."
Exelon also said it will hire more than 400 permanent employees across the two plants to assist with the capital projects and to replace workers for open positions and retirements.
Prior to the Future Energy Jobs Bill's passage, Exelon had said that without a new energy policy it would close Clinton in 2017 and Quad-Cities in 2018.
With that threat of closure, Exelon's employment numbers had dropped at both plants as employees transferred elsewhere in the company, left for other jobs or retired, said Bill Stoermer, spokesman for the Quad-Cities Station in Cordova.
"We hadn't been filling those positions, so we were running pretty slim the last seven or eight months," he said.
In addition, he said Exelon now anticipates even more retirements among workers who already were eligible but were waiting to see if the plants had only one or two years left in operation.
"Now that cloud of uncertainty is gone, so some are deciding to retire and let others have their job," he said.
Stoermer estimated the Cordova station will hire about 150 to 175 of the 400 new employees. About 80 of those will be long-term Exelon positions, while the remainder will be local union tradespeople who will spend one or two years working on the capital projects.
"Clinton was anticipating it was in its last six months of operation (and preparing to close), so they will have a more aggressive hiring process," Stoermer said.
Clinton will make upgrades to the plant’s main generator, replace an auxiliary transformer and upgrade a pump motor that controls water flow outside the reactor.
"These were capital projects that did not necessarily need to be done for safe operation of reactors, but they were modifications that needed to be done if the plants were going to run 10 or more years," Stoermer said.
He estimated the Quad-Cities Station will invest more than $15 million in the capital projects.
The new staff is in addition to the 3,000 electricians, pipefitters, welders, laborers and contractors that Quad-Cities and Clinton bring in annually to perform work during refueling outages.
In addition to preserving Exelon's two plants, the Future Energy Jobs Bill secured competitive electric rates in Illinois, protects and creates good-paying jobs and spurs billions of dollars in investment in clean energy and energy efficiency across the state. The legislation provides $180 million in funding per year, growing to $220 million per year, for renewable resources, including wind and solar.
The bill received broad support from more than 200 business, labor, environmental, faith-based and other groups, including the Clean Jobs Coalition.