WASHINGTON, Aug 24 (Reuters) - A U.S. representative from Illinois has urged President Joe Biden to consider using federal emergency powers to save two struggling nuclear power plants in his state as their owner edges closer to shutting the first one next month.
Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican, asked Biden in a letter sent late on Monday to consider using powers under the Defense Production Act (DPA) or the Federal Power Act (FPA) to keep the plants open until federal or state subsidy programs can make them economically viable. Copies were sent to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and other top officials.
Exelon Corp (EXC.O) Chief Executive Christopher Crane said early this month the company plans to shut the nuclear reactors at Byron in September and Dresden in November unless an Illinois or federal program comes to the rescue. read more
The DPA, enacted in 1950 during the Korean War, allows the U.S. government to direct private companies to produce certain goods to meet the nation’s national security needs.
Kinzinger said under the FPA, Granholm could submit a proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requesting that it determine an emergency exists and require the plants to stay open.
"The decisions you and your administration make on these matters in the days ahead will have a substantial impact on the future of America's energy and climate policy," Kinzinger said in the letter.
The United States has 93 nuclear reactors, down from 104 in 2012, as aging plants face rising security costs and competition from electricity generated from plentiful natural gas, and wind and solar power. Still, they are the country's top source of emissions-free power generation.
The White House, the Energy Department and Exelon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Illinois has been debating a clean energy package that includes subsidies for nuclear power. The bill has been bogged down by requirements to shut power plants fueled by coal and natural gas, but the state legislature is expected to consider a slimmer version of the bill on Aug. 31.
White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy has said that existing U.S. nuclear plants in many areas are going to be "absolutely essential" to reach Biden's goal of making the power grid emissions free by 2035. The administration has supported using taxpayer subsidies to keep nuclear plants from closing and such a measure is in its infrastructure legislation.
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