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Byron community celebrates nuclear plant staying open, but local lawmakers are pessimistic about the plant’s long-term future

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Byron plant reax web pic

BYRON (WREX) — Business is humming at Sunrise Cafe in Byron, and manager Muji Luma thinks it will stay that way thanks to the Byron Nuclear Plant staying open.

"Would people have moved out, all those people that worked there, the schools what would happen?" Luma said. "How much would our taxes have gone up because [the plant] wouldn't pay any more? So lots of concerns, a lot of concerns for us, but we are so lucky. We get another five years and hopefully more."

And for Byron Mayor John Rickard, the news means he and the community won't have to account for over $30 million in tax revenue going out the door.

"The plant provides like $38 million in taxes a year largely to the school here in Byron and fire protection district, the library district museum district, forest preserve so that's pretty big for Byron," Rickard said.

However, State Senator Dave Syverson has major concerns about the long-term future of the plant. The bill guarantees the plant stays open for six years, but beyond that, Syverson thinks the state will opt to focus on solar and wind energy.

"We may come back six years from now and they say, you know what, we don't need nuclear anymore because we have wind and solar," Syverson said. "The concern really is that we're building an over reliance on wind and solar which may make it more difficult to renew Byron after that."

Syverson ultimately voted no for the bill due to increased energy rates for consumers, and having that money be handed out to wind and solar companies. He believes the way the bill was written strong armed lawmakers in our area to vote yes in order to keep Byron's plant open.

"They in essence blackmailed people in our part of the state to say we'll keep your plant open, but in turn we want you to give us over a billion dollars a year in higher rates so we can give lucrative contracts to wind and solar companies," Syverson said.

Senator Steve Stadelman on the other hand voted yes to the bill. He too has issues with the near 1000 page bill, but ultimately believes the benefits of saving Byron warranted a 'yes' vote.

"Most importantly it's good news for the Rockford area region including Byron," Stadelman said. "This allows the Byron Nuclear Plant to stay open. If that had closed, thousands of jobs would have been lost and the tax base in the region would have been severely hit."

Governor JB Pritzker said in a press conference on Monday that he will sign the bill into law.