CLINTON — Under federal law, nuclear reactors that are decommissioned must be returned to “greenfield” status within 60 years. Also under federal law, “greenfield status” is defined as an end point where a parcel of land that had been in industrial use is restored to the conditions existing before the plant's construction.
Under that definition, within 60 years of the closure of the Clinton Power Station, the 4,900-acre lake, now used as a cooling source for the plant and a popular tourist destination, would be restored to marsh and farmland.
“Honestly, nobody is certain what would happen to the lake,” said plant Communications Manager Brett Nauman.
“It’s a great question,” added Ted Stoner, the plant's vice president.
Clinton Lake was built to cool the nuclear power plant owned by Exelon Nuclear. The company owns the lake and spillway, but the waterway is managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
IDNR officials declined to comment on the lake's potential future, but did say the Clinton Lake State Recreation Area drew an estimated 948,335 visitors in 2015, the second most of any state recreational area.
The lake features a 1,000-foot sand beach, and is a popular spot for swimmers, boaters and fishermen, who regularly pull in crappie, catfish, bass and walleye.
“Tourism related to the lake is such an important thing for Clinton,” said City Administrator Tim Followell. “The lake means a lot to our local businesses and residents.”
“I can’t imagine DeWitt County without the lake,” added Clinton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marion Brisard. “I also can’t imagine what it would do to DeWitt County.”
Naumann said Exelon officials are hoping to keep the plant open for the long-term future, and also are concerned about what happens to the lake if it does close.
“We certainly recognize the community benefits of the lake and I know there would be a lot of discussion about that,” he said. “But as for saying for certain what would happen, we don’t know.”