Byron Nuclear Generating Station

Byron Nuclear Generating Station

Infobox NPP
Picture=Exelon byron nuclear generating station.jpg
Location=near Byron, Illinois, United States
Generators=Babcock and Wilcox
Architect=Sargent & Lundy Engineers
Construction= by utility
The Byron Nuclear Generating Station is a nuclear power plant located in Ogle County, Illinois, USA providing electricity to northern Illinois and the city of Chicago. The reactor vessels were constructed by Babcock and Wilcox and house two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors, Unit 1 and Unit 2, which first began operation in September 1985 and August 1987 respectively. The plant was built for Commonwealth Edison and is currently owned and operated by Exelon Corporation.

In 2005 the plant generated on average about 2,300 MWe, enough power to supply about 2 million average American homes. The station, convert|2|mi|km east of the Rock River, employs over 600 people, mostly from Ogle and Winnebago Counties and features two prominent 495 foot (150.9 m) cooling towers. The Byron plant has been subject to some controversy since its construction began, starting with a 1981 lawsuit and continuing into the present with concerns over tritium contaminated groundwater. Tritium contamination at Byron and other Illinois nuclear power plants led the state of Illinois to pass legislation requiring plants to report such contamination to the state within 24 hours. Plant security was increased after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and is managed by the Wackenhut Corporation under contract.


Construction on Byron Nuclear Generating Station began in 1975, at a 1,782 acre (7.2 km²) site, 17 miles (27 km) southwest of Rockford, Illinois, south of the city of Byron in Ogle County." [ Byron Generating Station] ," (PDF), Plant Fact Sheet, "Exelon Nuclear". Retrieved 30 August 2007.] The firm of Sargent and Lundy acted as consulting engineer during construction and Babcock and Wilcox oversaw the completion of the reactor vessels. Before construction was completed on the reactor vessels and facilities, at least three groups joined in a 1981 lawsuit to halt Byron Nuclear Generating Station's completion. The League of Women Voters, DeKalb Area Alliance for Responsible Energy, and others were involved in the lawsuit over the safety of and need for the plant. In 1984 the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, a division of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), stopped the planned nuclear station at Byron by refusing its owners, then Commonwealth Edison, permission to begin operation. The decision stemmed from concerns about the quality control of independent contractors hired during construction. Ultimately, the board overturned its decision in October 1984 and permission was granted to operate after a re-inspection of over 200,000 items and components within the plant.Anonymous. " [ Foes of nuclear plant in Illinois find fight is over] ," ( [ ProQuest] ), "The New York Times", 18 February 1985, p. 11. Retrieved 30 August 2007.]

Byron Station consists of two pressurized water reactors, termed Byron Unit One and Byron Unit Two, and the surrounding grounds and facilities. Byron Unit One received its operating license from the NRC on February 14 1985 and Unit Two received its license on January 30 1987." [ Byron 1] , Facility Finder Info, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Retrieved 30 August 2007.] " [ Byron 2] , Facility Finder Info, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Retrieved 30 August 2007.] On September 16 1985, Unit One entered commercial service and power began to be generated at Byron. The operating licenses for the two reactors expire two years apart: Unit One's license expires on October 31 2024, and Unit Two's on November 6 2026.

Facilities and output

The two Westinghouse four-loop pressurized-water reactors each have an electrical output of over 1,000 MWe. Unit One has an annual output of 1,163 MWe, and Unit Two has an annual output of 1,131 MWe. In 2005 the reactors operated at 93.4% capacity and produced 2,353 MWe of electricity; enough power for 2 million average American households." [ Byron Generating Station] ," Power Generation, "Exelon Nuclear". Retrieved 30 August 2007.] The two cooling towers at Byron rise 495 feet (151 m) over the site.

thumb|250px|right|A_U.S._government_animation_of_a_pressurized water reactor] The plant utilizes non-contact cooling water from the Rock River, situated 2 miles (3.2 km) to the west. The water used in the process of generating electricity is cooled in the station's two cooling towers and recirculated via the plant's blowdown line back into the Rock River. Other water, from Byron's Radioactive Waste Treatment system, is transferred to the Refueling Water Storage Tank (RWST), where it is analyzed and sampled for contamination. Once it passes through analysis, the water is discharged down the blowdown line into the river." [ Byron Generating Station] ," (PDF), Hydrogeologic Investigation Report, "Conestoga-Rovers & Associates" for Exelon Generation Company, LLC, "Exelon Nuclear", September 2006, pp. 2-3, pp. 50-54 Retrieved 30 August 2007.]

According to plant owner Exelon, the Byron station is operated by about 690 Exelon employees and another 150 permanent contractors. Most of Byron's employees reside in Ogle and Winnebago Counties in northern Illinois. The plant paid US$23 million in taxes in 2005 to various local taxing bodies.

Groundwater contamination

There are two underground aquifers within the first 230 feet (70.1 m) below the power station: the upper aquifer is known as the Galena-Platteville Aquifer and the lower aquifer is known as the St. Peter Sandstone Aquifer. The two bodies of water are separated by a layer of shale and thus not connected.

In February 2006, Exelon reported elevated tritium levels in the groundwater beneath the site. Tritium levels were elevated in two of six test wells, according to an Exelon release in February which noted that tritium concentrations of 86,000 piC/L were detected in standing water in underground concrete vaults along the plant's blowdown line." [ Exelon Nuclear To Launch Tritium Inspection Program At Its 10 Nuclear Stations] ," (Press release), "Exelon Nuclear", 15 February 2006.] The company iterated that the levels posed no risk to public or employee safety. The report coincided with ongoing tritium concerns at the Exelon-owned Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station near Braceville, Illinois." [ Exelon finds tritium near Byron nuclear plant] ," "Associated Press" via "Chicago Business", 31 March 2006. Retrieved 30 August 2007.] In September, elevated tritium levels were found at Byron in three monitoring wells adjacent to vacuum breaker vaults along the blowdown line. Two of the areas with elevated tritium were found in the shallow portions of the Galena-Platteville Aquifer, while the third location contained elevated tritium levels at the bottom of the same aquifer. None of the September levels exceeded the 20,000 pCi/L U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standard.

On April 12 2006 the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) issued a violation notice to Exelon concerning Byron Nuclear Generating Station. The notice cited the company for violations of state environmental laws related to the "impairment of resource groundwater", discharging waste-containing contaminants from areas other than the permitted points, and violations of other requirements of the plant's discharge permit." [ Fact Sheet 1 - April 2006: Exelon Byron Nuclear Generating Station On-going Tritium Investigation] ," Community Relations - Fact Sheets, "Illinois Environmental Protection Agency". Retrieved 30 August 2007.]

Due to the tritium contamination at Byron, Braidwood and Dresden nuclear power plants in Illinois, the state government passed a law requiring power plants to report the release of radioactive contaminants into the soil, surface water or ground water to the state within 24 hours. Before the law was passed, companies operating nuclear plants were only required to report such releases to the federal NRC. The law was introduced by Illinois State Representative Careen Gordon and State Senator Gary Dahl, and was signed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on June 11, 2006 and became effective immediately upon his signature. The state government only found out about the tritium releases at the Exelon-owned plants after local officials near the Braidwood plant informed them. Following that revelation, other information about spills at Braidwood, Byron, and Dresden came to light. The state of Illinois contended that it was not informed of the leaks by Exelon in a timely manner. The law also required all Illinois nuclear power plants to submit to quarterly inspections by the IEPA and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency." [ Governor Blagojevich signs new law requiring nuclear plants to report radioactive releases] ," (Press release), "Office of the Governor" (Illinois), 11 June 2006. Retrieved 30 August 2007.]


As of the second quarter of 2007, Byron Nuclear Generating Station scored in the "green" in every NRC inspection category but one. The NRC has four levels of inspection findings, the levels are color-coded and the colors equate with risk levels. Green inspection findings represent very low risk significance. Higher levels, from white, to yellow, to red, show increasing levels of risk. For any inspection findings greater than green, the NRC conducts follow-up inspections. [See "Oversight of Nuclear Power Plant Safety Has Improved", GAO, p. 7.] Unit One scored "green" in every category, while Unit Two scored "white," a step down from "green," on the inspection of the heat removal system." [ 2Q Performance Summary: Byron 2] ," Assessment Reports, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Retrieved 30 August 2007.] The inspection covered several other significant areas, including unplanned scrams, the alert and notification system and the emergency AC power system." [ 2Q Performance Summary: Byron 1] ," Assessment Reports, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Retrieved 30 August 2007.] From 2001–2005, no inspections of Byron Nuclear Generating Station found any condition that merited a greater than "green" designation, during the same time period inspection found 71From 2001–2005 the range of "green" findings during civilian U.S. nuclear power plant inspections was from 15–141 individual "greens" at each plant. See "Oversight of Nuclear Power Plant Safety Has Improved", GAO, p. 64.] green conditions at the Byron plant." [ Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Oversight of Nuclear Power Plant Safety Has Improved, but Refinements Are Needed] ," Report to Congressional Requesters, September 2006, "Government Accountability Office (GAO)", pp. 64, 70. Retrieved 30 August 2007.]

Byron, like most U.S. nuclear plants, has been the subject of various actions by the NRC. Escalated Enforcement Actions represent one type. From 1997–2007 the Byron plant has received five such actions, two of which resulted in a total of $150,000 in fines. A $100,000 fine was issued on February 27, 1997 due to problems with excessive silt build up in two separate locations at the Byron facility; the NRC fined the plant $50,000 for each problem." [ Escalated Enforcement Actions Issued Against Reactor Licensees] , Byron 1 & 2 - Docket Nos. 050-00454; 050-00455, "U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission". Retrieved 30 August 2007.] " [ EA-96-508 - Byron 1 & 2 (Commonwealth Edison Company)] ," Letter from A. Bill Beach to K. Grasser, 27 February 2007.] The NRC levied an additional $55,000 in fines in October 1997 when the plant failed technical specifications surveillance guidelines. Specifically, they violated rules that require the Emergency Core Cooling System (ECCS) pump casing and discharge piping high points be vented once every 31 days." [ EA-97-264 - Byron 1 & 2 (Commonwealth Edison Company)] ," Letter from A. Bill Beach to K. Grasser, 3 October 1997, "U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission". Retrieved 30 August 2007.] The potential safety consequence of the violation affiliated with the second fine was considered "low." As of 2007, the last NRC Escalated Enforcement Action against the Bryon Station came in 2005 when an engineer deliberately falsified surveillance reports to show he had completed work that was incomplete, though the plant could have been fined up to $60,000 the NRC chose not to impose the fine." [ EA-05-159 - Byron 1 & 2 (Exelon Generation Company, LLC)] ," Letter from Geoffrey E. Grant to Christopher M. Crane, 27 October 2005, "U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission". Retrieved 30 August 2007.]

A small fire occurred at the plant on the morning of February 24, 2006. The fire was confined to the Unit 1 Refueling Water Storage Tank (RWST) heater. Initial attempts to extinguish the fire were unsuccessful, following those attempts a breaker was opened and the heater was allowed to deenergize which extinguished the fire. Units 1 and 2 were operating at 100%, but neither reactor was shut down as a result of the fire." [^PBNTAD01&ID=060580149 Preliminary Notification of Event or Unusual Occurrence: PNO-III-06-006] ," (PDF), Preliminary Notification Report, 24 February 2007, "U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission". Retrieved 30 August 2007.] As a result of the fire the plant declared an "unusual event," the least serious of the four categories of emergency declarations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission." [ Event Notification Report for February 27, 2006] ," Event Reports For 02/24/2006 - 02/27/2006, Operations Center, "U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission", 27 February 2007. Retrieved 30 August 2007.]


Security at Byron, along with 34 other U.S. nuclear plants, is contracted out to the Wackenhut Corporation." [ Nuclear Facilities] ," Wackenhut Nuclear Services, "Wackenhut Corporation". Retrieved 30 August 2007.] After the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, a "security zone" was established by the United States Coast Guard around the Byron Nuclear Generating Station. The security zones were established in hopes of preventing a similar attack on the protected facilities. On December 10, 2004 the security zone at Byron was removed to allow for a security zone around the Hammond Intake Crib on Lake Michigan." [ 33 CFR Part 165] ," Security Zone; Captain of the Port Chicago Zone, Lake MI: United States Coast Guard, "Federal Register", 10 December 2004, Vol. 69, No. 237, pp. 71708-71709. Retrieved 30 August 2007.]

ee also

*Nuclear safety in the U.S.


External links

* [ DoE Page]

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