CLINTON — Exelon Corp. is moving toward closing the Clinton nuclear power plant next year, but one lawmaker said the lack of recent public activity by those trying to save the plant doesn't mean the effort is dead.
State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, said that even though there have been no news conferences or press releases lately, work continues on legislation for a clean-energy subsidy and utility rate changes that Exelon has said it needs to keep the plant economically viable.
“A lot of people are still working on it, including Exelon, Gov. (Bruce) Rauner, and the General Assembly,” he said. “It is in everyone’s best interest to come to an agreement. I don’t want to be overly optimistic or overly pessimistic, but incremental progress is being made.”
Still, officials in Clinton say no news is not good news.
“I haven’t heard anything,” said Clinton City Administrator Tim Followell.
“It’s terrible, isn’t it?” said Marion Brisard, Clinton Chamber of Commerce executive director.
To them, no news means the company, which already has notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of its closure plans, is moving toward the planned June 1, 2017, decommissioning and time to reverse the decision is running out.
“The Legislature meets for a few days in November,” said Exelon spokesman Brett Nauman. “Hopefully, they could act before the end of the year and Exelon could potentially reverse the decision. But as of now, we have to move forward with plans to close.”
Mitchell said he has met with the governor’s office this week and is headed back to Springfield on Friday.
“Keeping the Clinton plant open is a topic of discussion wherever I go,” he said. “If I am having coffee with someone in Decatur or a town meeting in Monticello, people want to know and are concerned.
"Central Illinois understands the importance of keeping the plant open. Those are 700 good-paying jobs.”
Exelon announced earlier this year that it would close the Clinton plant next year and the Quad Cities plant a year later if the General Assembly did not pass the Next Generation Energy Plan in the spring legislative session. The bill, which did not come up for a vote, would extend to nuclear plants state subsidies given to wind and solar power suppliers for producing electricity without carbon emissions.
Exelon said the plants have sustained operating losses totaling a combined $800 million over the past seven years and cannot continue without the financial breaks.
Critics called the plan a bailout for a profitable company, and some environmentalists question treating nuclear power as clean energy.
Last month, mayors and community leaders sent a letter to the governor and lawmakers in support of the legislation.
In recent weeks, several employees have been transferred to other Exelon locations. Nauman couldn’t say how many employees had transferred, but said the safety of the plant is not at risk.
“Operating the plant is still the highest priority,” he said.