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Constellation Energy Announces $800 Million Investment for Illinois Nuclear Plants

Two nuclear plants in Illinois are getting an $800 million upgrade. Constellation Energy’s Braidwood and Byron Generating Stations will be fitted with new equipment that will increase generating capacity. Once slated for early retirement, the two generating stations will now be bringing even more clean energy to the Chicago area. 

>>>READ: Last Energy has a Mission to Install 10,000 Nuclear Reactors

The new technology investments will increase total generating capacity by approximately 135 megawatts. That is enough generated electricity to power the equivalent of 100,000 American homes for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for an entire year. 

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“These investments in our world class nuclear fleet will allow us to generate more zero-carbon energy with the same amount of fuel and land, and that’s a win for the economy, the environment and Illinois families and businesses who rely on our clean energy,” commented Joe Dominguez, president and CEO of Constellation. “These projects will help create family-sustaining jobs and are a direct result of state and federal policies that recognize the incredible value of nuclear energy in addressing the climate crisis while keeping our grid secure and reliable.”

The additional carbon-free power that will be generated by these two stations will have tremendous environmental benefits. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data shows that generating that amount of power from a carbon-free source has the same positive environmental benefit as taking 171,000 vehicles off the road every year or adding 216 wind turbines to the grid. 

What will the upgrades look like? According to Constellation Energy: 

“The Braidwood and Byron projects involve replacing the main turbines at the two facilities with state-of-the-art, high efficiency units that are expected to add approximately 135 carbon-free megawatts of output at the nuclear plants. Constellation expects to see increased output at the stations as early as 2026, with the full uprated output available by 2029.  Work on the uprates will occur in stages during scheduled refueling outages.” 

The two generation stations already employ 1,200 permanent workers. But it is expected that thousands of new jobs will be created for the duration of the construction and improvement process while bringing in increased economic activity to the local area. 

>>>READ: Congress Gears Up to Address Nuclear Energy Licensing Reform

Smaller scale nuclear has been getting a tremendous amount of attention over the past few years. And for good reason—there are incredible opportunities presented by innovative, scaleable nuclear solutions. But conventional nuclear reactors still serve a very important purpose. Constellation Energy’s commitment to increasing conventional nuclear generation capacity spells out good things for the Chicago area, the state of Illinois, and the future of nuclear in America.

Kelvey Vander Hart is a native Iowan, a member of the American Conservation Coalition, and a communications specialist at Reason Foundation.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of C3.

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