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Lacking a lifeline, Exelon's Illinois nuclear plants to retire in fall -CEO

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Aug 4 (Reuters) - U.S. energy company Exelon Corp said on Wednesday it still plans to retire uneconomic nuclear reactors at Byron and Dresden in Illinois this autumn unless some state or federal program is passed to save the plants.

Exelon Chief Executive Christopher Crane said in the company's earnings release that "passage of (federal) legislation remains uncertain and, regardless, will come too late to save our Byron and Dresden plants from early retirement this fall."

The two reactors at Byron can generate almost 2,500 megawatts of power, while Dresden's two reactors can produce over 1,800 MW. One megawatt can power about 1,000 U.S. homes.

Crane said the company remains "hopeful that a state solution will pass in time to save the plants," but noted "clean energy legislation in Illinois remains caught in negotiations over unrelated policy matters."

One of those unrelated matters is the lingering public and political anger at Exelon's Commonwealth Edison unit after the Chicago-based utility agreed to pay $200 million to resolve a U.S. Justice Department probe over inappropriate lobbying practices in 2020.

After closing at its highest since February 2020 on Tuesday, Exelon shares slipped 1.5% in midday trade on Wednesday.

Exelon has blamed the planned nuclear shutdowns on market rules that it said favor fossil-fired and renewable plants over carbon-free nuclear energy.

Exelon has said Dresden and Byron face revenue shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars and together employ more than 1,500 workers.

In 2016, Exelon, which operates six nuclear plants in Illinois, won state subsidies that analysts have said provide about $230 million a year to keep its Clinton and Quad Cities plants operating.

Exelon, however, has long sought subsidies for its other Illinois nuclear plants.

Exelon has been successful in winning subsidies in New York and New Jersey to keep its reactors operating to help meet those states' clean energy goals.

But when states do not provide subsidies, the company has retired reactors like Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 2019.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy)