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Nuclear power plays a vital role in Grundy County

As we are just days away from the Grundy County Chamber’s annual Family Fest, Exelon and Dresden Station have been frequently discussed by Chamber staff as we’ve promoted the company as a major sponsor for this event. Every year, Exelon has sponsored this event, making it one of the major contributors to keeping this event free for the 1200 to 1500 families that come through every year. It’s a day filled with fun, experiences and resources for our community, much of which is thanks to Exelon’s generous contribution.

The Chamber’s Family Fest is one of hundreds events, organizations, schools and projects that Exelon, its Dresden, LaSalle and Braidwood stations, and their thousands of employees help support locally. As Illinois’ nuclear stations face financial challenges and face the need of state legislation to continue, the impact of a potential closure of Dresden or any of these plants would be destructive to our local economy.

The Grundy Economic Development Council and the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce & Industry recently commissioned a study with Northern Illinois University to give us a more data-driven visual of the impact Dresden has on our local economy and what a closure might mean to this region. When you look at the numbers and then consider the residual effect, it’s jarring.

Dresden employs about 800 people directly. Between Dresden, LaSalle and Braidwood stations about
2,300 people are directly employed there with what can be described as head of household jobs-well-paying jobs right here in our communities. This does not include the hundreds more employed by contractors doing work at these plants.

Of those about 2,300 employees, it’s estimated more than 1,100 live in Grundy County, including Channahon and Minooka. Some of the specifics include 228 residents in Morris and 143 in Coal City and Diamond. This again does not include those employed as contractors working regularly at these stations, or the extra people brought in for outages.

That turns out to be thousands of people who buy gas, groceries, eat in our restaurants, shop our downtowns and stay in our hotels.

It also turns out to be hundreds of thousands of dollars contributed to our local nonprofits and organizations. Last year, Dresden Station and its employees gave more than $200,000 to local organizations, including United Way. United Way of Grundy County supports 29 area nonprofits supplying resources for those in need. Between all three stations and their employee contributions – Exelon is 35% of United Way of Grundy County’s budget. The loss of those donations would cripple our local United Way. Without the resources our nonprofits provide to our residents, such as shelters and food pantries, there are people in our community who will go homeless and who will go hungry.

It’s this residual effect, as well as the thousands of local jobs, that we have to bear in mind and ask our Legislatures to fight to keep Dresden, and all of the Illinois plants open. The GEDC and the Chamber have formed the Nuclear Communities Coalition with private and public entities to help us fight for this in Springfield, and to secure safeguards in any legislation that would protect our local economies in case the worst was to happen and we lost these plants. These safeguards will act as an insurance policy we hope to never have to use. The safeguards include a property tax stepdown, funding for future workforce and economic recovery, as well as monies for proper resources to ensure safe long-term spent fuel storage after closure. There are extreme safety measures in place for decommissioning a plant, as well as continued storage of fuel. What our coalition would like to ensure is proper funding for emergency response and emergency management through the completion of decommissioning.

As the Nuclear Communities Coalition works to keep our plants open and protect our communities, we ask for your assistance in spreading the message of the local impact of these plants.

• Christina Van Yperen is the President & CEO of the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce

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