NE doctoral student Alyssa Hayes, a native of Illinois and a graduate of the University of Illinois, recently offered testimony to the Illinois state legislature about the proposed retirement of three nuclear power plants: Exelon Generation’s Byron nuclear plant, as well as struggling facilities in Braidwood and Dresden.
The scheduled retirements were ultimately thwarted by an amendment to a comprehensive clean energy package by the Illinois House, which opted to save the plants. However, debate over the bill was elevated by Hayes’s testimony, which included personal experience from an earlier shut-down of the Zion nuclear station in Illinois and the effect it had on the local community.
“Even today, Zion-Benton High School still spends about $3,000 less per student than neighboring schools such as Grayslake North and Central,” she said.
Hayes also offered a point about the zero-carbon benefits of keeping the plants open.
“Right now 87 percent of Illinois’ carbon-free electricity generation comes from our nuclear power capacity,” she said. “Of that 87 percent, 31 percent comes from Byron and Dresden stations alone. If these plants were to be shut down, one-third of our carbon-free electricity would be replaced with what is mostly fossil fuels, with what is mostly natural gas.”
“We’re thrilled to see Alyssa’s successful advocacy for nuclear energy,” said Department Head Wes Hines. “We educate our students to be great nuclear engineers and leaders in the field. Alyssa is someone who has consistently gone above and beyond her academics to practice advocacy for nuclear energy policy that will have a lasting and positive impact on the US.”
Hayes is no stranger to nuclear policy advocacy at the state and federal level and is a delegate to the national advocacy organization, the Nuclear Engineering Student Delegation. While studying at the University of Illinois as an undergraduate student, she also helped garner support for the Clean Energy Jobs Act in IL, which saved Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants from premature decommissioning.