Exelon begins $4.6B in Illinois projects

By Julie Wernau
Posted Aug. 23, 2010 at 3:50 p.m.

Exelon Corp. announced a “massive spending program” Monday that will invest $4.6 billion in Illinois nuclear projects, beginning with the 10-year decommissioning of Zion Nuclear Power Station in September.

The investment is well above the company’s usual expenditures for refueling operations. Chicago-based Exelon said it will pour billions into updates at six Illinois nuclear stations in the next five years. Together with additional upgrades and updates to Exelon’s Pennsylvania power plants, the projects will add electric generation equivalent to that of a new reactor: About 420 megawatts in Illinois, or enough to power half a million homes, said Mike Pacilio, Exelon’s chief nuclear officer.

The projects are expected to create the equivalent of 4,200 full-time positions over the next five years in Illinois cities and counties with  Exelon nuclear facilities. The $1 billion decommissioning of the Zion plant — 40 miles north of Chicago on  Lake Michigan — will employ 200 to 400 workers, the company said.

Exelon is set to transfer the station’s license next month to EnergySolutions, a Salt Lake City nuclear services company, which will oversee the plant’s dismantling.

The 200-acre site will be transferred back to Exelon for other uses after all materials and parts from the plant are moved to a Utah waste facility.

Adam Levin, director for decommissioning at Exelon, said spent nuclear fuel, which is onsite  in massive “dry storage” bunkers from Zion’s operating years of 1973 to 1997 — will remain onsite, barring a change in legislative priorities.

About $1.4 billion in updates is planned at six nuclear power plants in Illinois, generating an estimated 50 permanent positions and enough hours to equal about 280 full-time jobs.

Additional plant upgrades and 33 refuelings at six Illinois nuclear plants through 2015 represent a $2.2 billion investment, the company said. Refueling outages are expected to produce enough work to employ the equivalent of 3,700 full-time employees, according to Exelon.

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