nuclear power plants

Cyndy Sims Parr/Flickr

Under a federal measure passed 30 years ago, the spent fuel from America’s nuclear reactors is supposed to be permanently buried out in the Mojave Desert, tucked deep under a mountain, far from any population center and easily guarded.

In reality, though, that radioactive waste – tens of thousands of tons of it – is sitting in temporary storage at dozens of current and former nuclear power sites all over the country, as it has been for decades. The largest portion of it is divided among seven sites that dot the nation’s fifth-largest state: Illinois.

Exelon Generation

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has begun a special investigation of a valve failure at the LaSalle County Nuclear Generating Station. 

When the plant shut down its Unit 2 in February for refueling, workers noticed a valve in the High Pressure Core Spray system failed to open as designed. This system provides cooling water to the reactor in abnormal operating conditions. Employees fixed the valve and reported the issue to federal authorities. 

"Satsop Nuclear Power Plant" by Flickr User Tony Webster / (CC BY 2.0)

Exelon Corp. says it plans to hire more than 400 permanent employees to work on capital projects at two Illinois nuclear plants.

The company's Wednesday announcement comes a week after Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner approved a plan that will provide billions of dollars in subsidies to Exelon to keep the pair of unprofitable nuclear plants from closing prematurely.

The new law includes $235 million a year for Exelon. The plants are in the Quad Cities in western Illinois and Clinton in central Illinois.

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You can’t see the Clinton nuclear plant from Clinton. It’s located nine miles out of town. But Clinton felt the impact when Exelon said the plant might close.

They felt it at The Shack, a Clinton diner that’s been serving up hamburgers and hand-packed milkshakes for nearly a century.

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Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner frequently talks about the need to grow the state's economy. However, manufacturers say the energy law he signed yesterday will make it harder for them to compete.

The law requires residential and business customers to pay a subsidy to Exelon so they can  keep nuclear power plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities open. 

Mark Denzler of the Illinois Manufacturer's Association says the hike in electric rates will cost some of his members millions of dollars per year.

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