2015.04.09 Zion press event

April 27, 2015 - Lake County News-Sun | Original Article

by Dan Moran

A bill working its way through the Illinois General Assembly this spring would allow Zion to impose impact fees for the storage of spent fuel at the lakefront nuclear plant that shut down in 1998 and continues to undergo decommissioning.

The bill passed through the State Senate by a 36-20 vote on April 23 and was assigned the next day to the House Rules Committee. If enacted, the measure would permit Illinois communities to "establish and collect a nuclear storage impact fee from the entity that operated a nuclear facility within the boundaries of the municipality" if a plant ceased generating electricity on or before the act's effective date.

That definition would include the Zion Station, which sits between Shiloh Boulevard and 29th Street east of Sheridan Road. The 257-acre property contains a reported 1,500 tons of spent, radioactive fuel rods that were initially stored in pools and have been transferred to steel-and-concrete dry casks since the formal decommissioning began in September 2010.

The bill's sponsor in the Senate, Democrat Melinda Bush of Grayslake, estimated that if the measure becomes reality, it could deliver $4 million to $5 million for Zion annually – or roughly a quarter of what the plant delivered in property taxes toward the end of its useful life.

"We've got 63 casks of nuclear waste down there, and the half-life for that is 10,000 years," Bush said on Monday. "If you're going to leave nuclear waste in a community and you expect it to shoulder the burden, there's a cost for that."

Bush added that she feels Chicago-based Exelon, which operated the plant as the parent company of ComEd and continues to own the property, has "hurt the economic viability of (Zion). Who wants to build next to a nuclear waste dump? (This) is Lake Michigan waterfront property that can't be used for anything else."

Bush was joined in voting for the measure by Lake County state senators Terry Link, D-Waukegan, and Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield. Among those voting against it were Dan Duffy, R-Barrington.

In a statement opposing the proposed legislation, Exelon officials said any "new fee or tax on used nuclear fuel or used fuel installations in Illinois (would) place further financial burdens on Illinois nuclear plants."

"These plants already are financially stressed because of low gas prices and the unintended effects of market design, and some are operating at a loss," the statement added. "Illinois nuclear plants already pay more than $290 million a year in local and state taxes and fees to fund schools and other community services. Adding to that burden would further harm these valuable state assets and be contrary to the best interests of Illinois businesses and consumers."

Language in the bill states that an impact fee would be based on operation "immediately before the nuclear facility ceased to generate electricity." It provides that the annual amount of the fee can't exceed 25 percent of the average annual amount of property taxes paid to the municipality by the operator during the last five years that the nuclear facility was operational.

According to information provided to the News-Sun in 2003, the plant paid $19.8 million in property taxes to Zion Township in 1996, the final year it was at least partially operational. Unit 2 shut down in September of that year, and Unit 1's last month of power generation was February 1997. The reactors were permanently shut down on Jan. 15, 1998, just short of 25 years after its first reactor began generating power.

According to Exelon, the generators in both units were subsequently converted to an electrical-transmission switchyard with "synchronous condensers used to provide stability to the northeast Illinois grid." The current status of the old nuclear fuel and buildings on the site is defined by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission as SAFSTOR, a "method of decommissioning in which a nuclear facility is placed and maintained in a condition that allows the facility to be safely stored and subsequently decontaminated (to) levels that permit release for unrestricted use."

Exelon retains ownership of the property while Utah-based EnergySolutions, which is performing the decommission work, holds the license to operations. The Chicago Tribune reported earlier this month that EnergySolutions is facing a shortfall in funds provided by ratepayers to clear out the site, though a company spokesman said the expectation continues to be that the job will be completed by 2018.

With roughly a month to go before Springfield adjourns for the spring, Bush said she and supporters of the impact-fee concept "are doing our level best" to move it through the House despite Exelon's opposition.

"The bill definitely is going to be difficult to pass, frankly, because people are afraid to stand up to Exelon," Bush said, adding that "I would be more than happy to sit down and negotiate with Exelon" on an impact fee.

Category: In The News

COVID19 Updates

COVID-19 Resources

Follow Sen. Bush


Newsletter Sign-up
  1. First Name(*)
    Invalid Input
  2. Last Name(*)
    Invalid Input
  3. Your Email(*)
    Please let us know your email address.

opioid crisis button

Contact Me

Springfield Office:
218 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: (217) 782-7353

District Office:
10 N. Lake St., Suite 112
Grayslake, IL 60030
Phone: (847) 548-5631