Chicago-based Exelon is one of the biggest nuclear energy providers in the United States with 10 nuclear power plants, 6 of them in Illinois. Low natural gas prices and subsidies for renewables have driven down the price of electricity. Because of this, Exelon may need to shut down nuclear power plants in order to remain profitable.
Although the uranium fuel is not expensive, nuclear plants are more expensive to run than other types of plants because of the high costs associated with strict federal regulations. Nuclear plants need more security and highly-trained employees and also pay high fees to be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Natural gas and coal plants do not require the same measures and licenses and therefore are cheaper to operate, even if nuclear fuel is very cheap.
Many people argue that the United States is a free market and that the government should not choose favorites by providing subsidies to some forms of energy and not others. This is a very controversial subject, especially in the debate of climate change and trying to reduce carbon emissions.
People in the nuclear community say that existing nuclear power plants are assets to this country because of the high initial investment, reliable baseload power, and number of jobs that they provide. Exelon argues that it should be payed a higher price for baseload electricity over intermittent electricity from wind and solar generators.
Should the government intervene by subsidizing nuclear power plants to stay open or let the "free market" take over?