In an editorial published recently in the Chicago Tribune, the newspaper’s editorial board states, “As for the U.S., power generation from splitting atoms has declined in recent years, and more reactors are being retired than built. If you’re in Illinois, however, you’re all-in on nuclear energy—for better or worse. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has made sure of that.”
Atomic governor: The editorial, which was published on April 14, calls Pritzker the “atomic governor” for signing legislation in 2021 that “committed the citizens of the state to extending the lives of three old nuclear plants that otherwise were due to be shut down.” The legislation provided $694 million in assistance to the Braidwood, Byron, and Dresden nuclear plants, which were facing premature closure for economic reasons.
“For all the assurances about nuclear power plants being clean, efficient and reliable,” the editorial states, “they have proved to be expensive. They require a fortune upfront to build, cost overruns and delays are the norm, and they’re especially uneconomical in states like Illinois, where deregulation has made electricity prices uncertain.”
The editorial claims that despite the damage caused by emissions from fossil fuel power plants, nuclear facilities are potentially much more dangerous, as they create “some of the deadliest waste imaginable” and are targets for terrorists and others looking to do harm.
Back in vogue: Despite the editorial writers’ doubts about nuclear power, they acknowledge its role in climate change mitigation. “Nuclear plants are back in vogue today, partly because of the impact of Russia’s war [in Ukraine] on energy prices, but even more so because they make electricity without releasing carbon into the atmosphere. . . . As the world races to reduce fossil fuel emissions, as it must, the risks of nuclear power are being reweighed.”
A nuclear renaissance? The editorial writers conclude, “Nuclear power will be a part of the world’s energy mix for many years to come. It’s possible that innovators will find a responsible way to deal with radioactive waste and otherwise mitigate the risks. . . . It’s too soon to declare a renaissance for nuclear power, but keeping minds and options open makes sense for Illinois right now.”