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Illinois N-plant will close for good in wake of costly switching mistake

SHARE Illinois N-plant will close for good in wake of costly switching mistake

The troubled Zion nuclear power plant, offline for nearly a year, will be permanently shut down.

The plant, which is nearly 25 years old, has not been in operation since February, after an operator accidentally switched off a reactor and then tried to restart it without following procedures.Unicom Corp., the holding company for the ComEd utility, will take a charge of $515 million to permanently close the plant over the next three to six months. Full decommissioning of the plant, in which spent radioactive fuel is moved from the plant, is not scheduled to occur until 2014.

"It is now apparent that restarting Zion does not make economic sense," said James J. O'Connor, ComEd's chairman and chief executive. "Once we concluded that Zion could not produce competitively priced power, we knew that the station had to be retired, as difficult as it is for the people affected."

About 800 jobs - 426 management and 375 union - could be lost if places are not found elsewhere in the company.

Many workers are likely to find jobs elsewhere in the company, although it might require moving from the area, said Bill Starr, president of Local 15 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union.

The Chicago-based power company has paid more than $6 million in NRC fines for problems at its nuclear plants, which all have two reactors.