America is experiencing an energy renaissance, with benefits going far beyond the price of a tank of gas. The dollar is strong, the unemployment rate is down, exports are up, and American manufacturing is surging.
While much of the attention has gone to the advent of enhanced oil and natural gas development, none of this would be possible without a crucial, clean energy source made right here in Illinois: nuclear power.
Illinois leads the nation in nuclear energy production where its six state-of-the-art plants provide our state with 48 percent of its electricity.
These plants produce substantial benefits for Illinois residents and businesses, ensuring reliable carbon-free power, driving economic growth by injecting nearly $9 billion per year into the state economy, and employing thousands of highly skilled workers in quality, well-paying jobs.
We are proud to represent districts in Illinois where nuclear plants play a critical role in the local economy. Unfortunately, this energy source, along with our economic recovery, is in jeopardy if state and federal policymakers do not act soon.
A number of our nuclear plants are at risk of premature closure because of economic and market challenges, including historically low natural gas prices, a slow economic recovery and policies that fail to recognize the environmental and reliability benefits of nuclear energy.
A report recently prepared at the request of the Illinois General Assembly found that Illinois would lose nearly 8,000 jobs and $1.8 billion in annual economic activity if just three plants close their doors. This not only confirms the value of the state’s nuclear plants overall, but also highlights the negative consequences that closures would have on the state and surrounding region.
Perhaps even more striking is the potential impact these closures would have on electric rates by increasing wholesale power prices by $437 million for ComEd customers in northern Illinois in the first year alone, while additionally costing up to $1.2 billion for the area encompassing Ameren customers throughout the rest of the state.
The report also indicates the plant closures would cost between $2.5 billion and $18.6 billion in economic damages stemming from increased carbon emissions.
It is imperative that, as policymakers, we take these risks seriously and do what we can to prevent plant closures. At the federal level, we are working hard to ensure that federal legislation and regulations treat nuclear power equitably to allow for the continued operation of at-risk plants in Illinois, but this alone may not be enough.
The Illinois agencies’ report detailed a number of proactive market-based solutions that the Illinois General Assembly could consider to help enable these plants to continue to operate. We hope that the General Assembly soon will consider a legislative solution to prevent the adverse consequences detailed in the report.
While we cannot predict what the energy mix will look like in 10 to 20 years, we do know the importance of reliability and diversity when it comes to energy. Together we can and must ensure that these plants can continue to operate and provide the benefits our state and communities presently enjoy.
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteo, represents Illinois' 16th Congressional District. HU.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, represents Illinois' 17th Congressional District.
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