By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Illinois Senate is expected to vote on a wide-ranging energy bill on Monday that contains incentives to prevent Exelon Corp from shutting three nuclear power plants just hours before the company threatened to close the first one.
The bill contains nearly $700 million over five years in carbon mitigation credits for the three plants, which were built more than 40 years ago. Exelon had said it would close its Byron plant on Monday, the Dresden plant in November, and that its Braidwood plant was also at risk.
"We don't anticipate any problems" passing the legislation, said John Patterson, a spokesperson for Senate President Don Harmon, a Democrat. "President Harmon will be voting 'Yes.'"
While nuclear power plants create toxic waste for which there is no permanent U.S. repository, they are also praised by some environmentalists and politicians for generating electricity virtually emissions-free.
The bill passed last week in the House after a compromise deal on coal plant closures approved by both environmentalists and labor groups.
It requires the closure of private coal-fired plants by 2030. Municipal coal plants are required to cut carbon emissions 45% by 2035 and reduce emissions to zero or close by 2045.
The bill requires 36 votes in the Senate to make it to the desk of Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat who has said he looks forward to signing it as soon as possible. A previous and similar version of the bill recently got 39 votes in the Senate.
The United States leads the world with 93 nuclear reactors, but that is down from 104 in 2012 as aging plants struggle to compete with renewable power and natural gas plants.
Gina McCarthy, President Joe Biden's climate adviser, has said maintaining some of the existing nuclear plants is "absolutely essential" to hit U.S. goals to decarbonize the electric grid by 2035, and the administration has supported federal incentives for the industry.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Dan Grebler)