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Report: Nuclear Energy Essential To Illinois' Economy, Environment

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Illinois' six nuclear energy facilities deliver enormous economic, environmental and electric reliability benefits to the state, according to a new analysis from the Nuclear Energy Institute. The benefits include nearly $9 billion of annual economic stimulus and almost 28,000 direct and secondary jobs across the state. The highly efficient power stations generated 90 percent of Illinois' carbon-free electricity.

The NEI study is entitled "The Impact of Exelon's Nuclear Fleet on the Illinois Economy."

"Illinois is fortunate to have such a workhorse for the state's economy, environment and energy reliability," said Richard Myers, NEI's vice president for policy development. "These nuclear assets have been delivering value to Illinois consumers for decades and they should never be taken for granted."

The report includes an analysis of the consequences if three Illinois nuclear plants were to retire prematurely because many key attributes of the facilities are not properly valued in the electricity market. It shows that the consequences for the state's economy and environment would be dire.

In 2016 alone, the early retirement of the Byron, Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear energy facilities would result in a loss of nearly $4 billion of direct and indirect economic output in Illinois. The losses would increase each year thereafter and reach almost $5 billion in direct and secondary output by 2030. The number of direct and secondary jobs lost increases over a five-year period, peaking in the fifth year after the plants close, to more than 13,000 jobs lost in Illinois.

"The data clearly show that taking Illinois nuclear energy facilities out of the equation amounts to a serious threat to the Illinois economy," Myers said. "The profoundly negative impacts would not just occur in the plant communities, but across the state."

The report comes at a time when Illinois nuclear energy facilities are facing significant economic challenges, which stem from low natural gas prices, low growth in the regional economy and electricity demand, and energy policies and market rules that do not properly value nuclear energy for its many benefits. These benefits include reliability, prevention of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions, price stability, and more.

At end of this year, the Vermont Yankee reactor will close after decades of operations, and approximately 600 employees will lose their jobs. In 2013, similar economic challenges forced the premature closure of a nuclear plant in Wisconsin, putting another 600 employees out of work.

Nuclear energy provides Illinois with nearly half of its electricity, enough to supply 7 million residents, three times the number of people living in Chicago. Nuclear power plants produce 90 percent of Illinois' carbon-free electricity and prevents annual carbon emissions equivalent to more than 15 million passenger cars.

This past winter, nuclear energy's reliability benefits became clear when the polar vortex struck Illinois. Nuclear energy was the predominant 24/7 electricity source available during that period because nuclear power plants have months, if not years, of fuel safely contained in the reactor and are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions. Other energy sources were unable to operate because the cold weather affected their operation. In a number of situations they could not obtain fuel to operate the plants.

"Illinois generates the fifth highest amount of electricity in the United States, but also ranks sixth in carbon emissions. Looking to the future, Illinois residents will need more reliable, 24/7 power, but they will also want cleaner air. With nuclear energy, they can have both," Myers said.

The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry's policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available at www.nei.org.

Contact NEI's media relations staff at media@nei.org, 202.739.8000 during business hours or 703.644.8805 after hours and weekends.

Source:Nuclear Energy Institute