Exelon Corp. plans to add the generating capacity of a new nuclear reactor without building a nuclear reactor. The company has announced plans to upgrade its nuclear fleet, including the Clinton reactor about 45 miles northeast of Springfield, in the next eight years at a cost of $3.5 billion to significantly increase power output.
Exelon Corp. plans to add the generating capacity of a new nuclear reactor without building a nuclear reactor.
The company has announced plans to upgrade its nuclear fleet, including the Clinton reactor about 45 miles northeast of Springfield, in the next eight years at a cost of $3.5 billion to significantly increase power output.
Executives also said the additional capacity — 1,300 to 1,500 megawatts — would displace millions of tons of carbon emissions linked to global warming that otherwise would be generated by fossil-fuel plants.
“Clinton is on the schedule for 2016,” said company spokesman Marshall Murphy.
Exelon has the largest fleet of commercial reactors in the United States and one of the largest in the world.
The plans, which are subject to federal regulatory approval, are to add 15 to 20 megawatts to the existing capacity at the 22-year-old plant. Murphy said most of the upgrades could be done during regular refueling outages.
Work would include:
*New metering systems to improve monitoring and power output.
*Equipment that would allow up to a 20 percent increase in reactor power.
*“Generator rewinds,” which involve new copper components to increase capacity.
*Turbine refits, including blades, rotors and casings.
Exelon just completed an upgrade that added 38 megawatts of capacity to a plant near the Quad Cities. Work also has begun at a second Quad Cities facility, as well as the Dresden and LaSalle plants in Illinois, and the Limerick and Peach Bottom plants in Pennsylvania.
The company expects to begin work on remaining plants in 2010 and to complete the project in 2017, including Clinton.
The director of the Nuclear Energy Information Service, a nuclear power watchdog group in Chicago, said the group isn’t necessarily opposed to the projects, though Dave Kraft said the upgrades still ignore the long-term issue of what to do with nuclear waste generated by the facilities.
“The good news is, the technology exists (for upgrades), the bad news is, it’s like putting it on a ’58 Buick,” Kraft said.
The bigger concerns are industry efforts in Congress to expand the use of nuclear power as part of a federal energy bill, including a proposal to create “regional” waste-storage facilities.
The Senate Energy Committee last week approved a “sense of Congress” resolution that concluded nuclear power must play an essential role in the nation’s energy future and in reducing greenhouse gases linked to global warming.
NEIS released a critique of the resolution, calling it the “nonsense of Congress” that threatens to turn Illinois into a dump for high-level radioactive waste. The critique pointed out the Obama administration recently terminated funding for a proposed storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
Letters sent to U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Roland Burris of Illinois also argued that following the resolution with legislative action opening the way for nuclear energy actually would hurt efforts to craft a renewable-energy policy.
“(It) takes positions expanding nuclear power in ways that will insure that sustainable energy sources will not come to market in a timely and economic manner, and by supporting theoretical and unproven reprocessing technologies, it positions Illinois to become a de facto Midwest/Great Lakes high-level radioactive waste repository,” the letter stated.
It has been a little more than four years since hundreds of people turned out at a school gymnasium in Clinton for a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearing on Exelon’s request for an “early site permit” for a second reactor.
The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the permit in 2007, giving Exelon up to 20 years to apply for a construction and operation license if it is determined the second reactor can be justified.
Exelon has not yet committed to construction. The company has filed plans for construction of a new plant in Texas.
“There just hasn’t been much happen there,” said Joyce Blumenshine with the Illinois Sierra Club in Peoria.
Blumenshine said local groups continue to monitor plans for the Clinton plant, but that a second reactor does not appear to be high on Exelon’s priority list at the moment.
Original plans were for a second reactor when the former Illinois Power Co. (now AmerenIP) announced plans for the Clinton plant in 1972. By the time power generation began in 1987, the plant was seven years behind schedule and the original $430 million cost had risen to more than $2.2 billion.
Plans for the second reactor were dropped along the way.
The 2005 hearing in Clinton drew nuclear opponents, and protesters, from as far away as Virginia, but there also was widespread support among local residents, including elected officials who spoke in favor of a site permit.
City council administrative assistant Tim Followell said Exelon remains by far the community’s largest employer. He added that tax revenue and stable employment have helped the city weather the worst of the recession.
“We’ve heard of a lot of larger communities cutting back, but we’ve stayed status quo,” Followell said.
The company also is regularly involved in community organizations ranging from chambers of commerce to construction to the YMCA.
As far as a second reactor, Followell said it certainly could be an economic boon to the area, but there has not been much discussion of late in the community.
“The last update we had is that there’s nothing new on the horizon. I think what’s occurring is that, right now, there’s just not a lot of demand for additional load in the Midwest region,” Followell said.
Tim Landis can be reached at (217) 788-1536 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clinton reactor by the numbers
*Opened: 1987 at a cost of $4.25 billion
*Generating capacity: 1,065 megawatts
*Local work force: 680
*Site: 14,300 acres, including 5,000-acre Clinton Lake, which serves as cooling lake
*Tax payments: $9.7 million, 2007 taxes payable in 2008
— Exelon Corp.
A megawatt equals 1 million watts of power. Depending on the formula used, that is enough electricity to power 700 to 1,000 homes.
Top 5 states in nuclear generating capacity
Here are the five states in nuclear generating capacity by megawatts of power:
*South Carolina: 6,472
*New York: 5,156
* The last nuclear plant to begin operation in the United States was the Watts Bar plant near Spring City, in eastern Tennessee, in 1996.
— U.S. Energy Information Administration