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COVID-19 situation comes during nuclear plant outage

Around 1,200 extra employees in area to refuel nuclear reactor

Exelon Generation's Byron Generating Station is located on German Church Road, between Oregon and Byron.
Exelon Generation's Byron Generating Station is located on German Church Road, between Oregon and Byron.

The COVID-19 pandemic has come in the midst of the Byron nuclear plant’s busiest time.

Every 18 months, one of the Byron units goes offline to refuel and undergo maintenance. During those outages, around 1,200 contractors are brought to the area to assist with the process.

Operators removed the Unit 1 nuclear reactor from service earlier this month for the scheduled refueling and maintenance outage.

“We are taking extensive, proactive measures to protect the health and safety of our employees, contractors and community by closely following CDC guidance to prevent the spread of germs and viruses,” Site Communications Manager Paul Dempsey said in a statement to Ogle County Newspapers.

“We’re facilitating and encouraging social distancing, remote work, frequent hand washing, and facility disinfection. We have two medical professionals staffing our facility around the clock and we’re closely monitoring employee health.”

The refueling outage is necessary to supply electricity to more than one million homes and infrastructure this summer. Dempsey said that includes hospitals and emergency services that are currently dealing with the COVID-19 situation and may still be this summer.

“Exelon Generation and Byron Generating Station have taken every precaution to prevent and slow the spread of the virus while also ensuring the reliable flow of electricity this summer to the community, which is critical to support our region’s response to the coronavirus health crisis,” Dempsey said.

On Feb. 24, the station celebrated one of the plant’s towers being online for 4,500 consecutive days.

Officials also noted the 45th anniversary of the start of the plant’s construction.

With both units at full power, the site produces almost 2,500 megawatts, enough electricity to power more than 2 million average American homes.

The outages that take place in Byron have long been touted as beneficial for the community as a whole, as the influx of workers spend money at area businesses like restaurants, bars and hotels.

Many of those businesses are currently closed due to state and federal mandates to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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