10/25/14 - CRAIN'S: How much money do Exelon's nukes really make?

BY STEVE DANIELS

For months, Exelon Corp. has been signaling that it will ask for state legislation next year to provide hundreds of millions of additional dollars to its fleet of Illinois nuclear plants, which the company says are struggling financially.

There's one thing the power company isn't saying: whether the atomic energy plants as a whole make money or not. A Crain's analysis of Exelon's Securities and Exchange Commission filings suggests the Illinois nukes as a group remain profitable, even as revenue has fallen sharply in the past few years. Profit clearly has eroded, however.

The analysis—coupled with Exelon's stance that it won't seek state bailouts for individual plants but instead a “market solution” that benefits all of its nukes in Illinois, even those making money—raises questions about whether the state effectively will be asked to compel ratepayers to subsidize a profitable enterprise.

For its part, Exelon disputes the numbers.

“Crain's analysis of Exelon's nuclear fleet economics is inaccurate and overstates the fleet's profitability,” the company says in a statement. “Several of our Illinois nuclear plants are experiencing major losses each year that we can't continue to sustain.”

Though Exelon doesn't disclose how individual plants are faring, it says three of its six in Illinois—Clinton, Quad Cities and Byron—are in the red today, and “absent policy changes, we expect these plants will not be able to recover their operating costs and will keep losing money.” Exelon doesn't say it explicitly, but presumably the other three—LaSalle, Dresden and Braidwood—are profitable.

Though specifics aren't disclosed on each plant, Chicago-based Exelon reports quite a bit of information in its SEC filings, including revenue for its Midwest generation operations; Exelon's Illinois nukes generate more than 95 percent of the power the company sells in the region.

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