A few months ago we talked with a Chicago Tribune reporter on the show about the uncertain future for the Byron nuclear power plant. The short story was that Exelon's six nuclear power plants in Illinois have failed to turn a profit over the last five years. Julie Wernau wrote:

Quad Cities and Byron have been hit the hardest by "negative" price conditions, meaning Exelon paid the operator of the electric grid to take its power. Because nuclear plants operate around the clock, they are continually producing power, and in 2012, the Quad Cities plant was paying the grid operator to take its power 8 percent of the time. In 2010, the Byron plant was paying out 7 percent of the time.

And just this week, more bad news: the Byron and Quad Cities plants have been shut out of an annual auction that determines the cost to ratepayers of furnishing power during the highest-demand times of the year. Steve Daniels of Crain's Chicago Business says that could mean a $180 million dollar hit to Exelon's bottom line:

The results of PJM's auction lay it out plainly for Illinois: Byron and Quad Cities aren't needed to keep the lights on. PJM's first job is to ensure reliable delivery of power when it's needed most, and the grid operator certified there's enough available to do that without Byron and Quad Cities.

Scott Olson, Getty Images

Experts and analysts seem to agree that there's a very real chance Exelon might have to take action on at least one of its underperforming plants. Lawmakers in Springfield are paying attention:

The lost PJM revenue at the two Exelon plants turns up the heat on what's shaping up as a large-scale effort next year in Springfield to save the facilities, which support hundreds of union jobs and contribute millions in local taxes to nearby communities. That legislation, which hasn't yet been introduced, is likely to increase Chicago-area electric bills.

It's quite the complicated issue that could have huge consequences for Byron and the entire Stateline area. We spent some time this week with Steve Daniels of Crain's Chicago Business to discuss the details. Listen here: