Illinois Senate backs lifting nuclear construction ban

April 3, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News

In a 39–13 bipartisan vote on March 30, the Illinois Senate passed legislation that would end the state’s prohibition on nuclear power plant construction—a ban that has been on the books since 1987.


Introduced January 20 by Sen. Sue Rezin (R., 38th Dist.), S.B. 0076 would delete language in the Illinois Public Utilities Act that forbids nuclear plant construction in the state until the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency determines that the federal government “has identified and approved a demonstrable technology or means for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste, or until such construction has been specifically approved by a statute enacted by the General Assembly.”

Under the bill, public utilities and energy companies would be granted the option of investing in new nuclear build projects. According to a news release from Rezin’s office, “SMRs are the latest and most advanced nuclear energy technology being developed” and “have the added benefit of being able to be placed in existing infrastructure such as factories or retired coal-fired power plants that are already connected to the electric grid.”

S.B. 0076 has garnered 20 cosponsors—13 Republicans and seven Democrats. On March 31, the measure arrived in the Illinois House for further consideration. The House has its own version, H.B. 1079, introduced by Rep. Mark Walker (D., 53rd Dist.) , which is currently with that chamber’s Rules Committee.

Words from the sponsor: “Illinois is just one of 12 states in the entire nation to still have a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power facilities,” Rezin said. “In the past few years, other states, including our neighbor Indiana, have recognized just how arbitrary and archaic these types of bans are and moved to remove them. My legislation is a bipartisan, pro-jobs bill that will help ensure that Illinois is able to effectively compete with other states who are beginning to understand the pivotal role nuclear energy can play in relieving growing energy grid reliability and resiliency pressures.”

The senator continued, “It is time for Illinois to come to the realization that as we make our move forward with carbon-free energy goals, we need to at the very least give our energy companies the option to decide for themselves if they want to invest in the most efficient and reliable means of producing carbon-free energy.”

Reaction: Chris Ventura, Midwest executive director of Consumer Energy Alliance, applauded the Senate’s action, noting that lifting the construction ban would give Illinoisians “additional options to meet their climate goals while ensuring their nuclear-ready workforce is able to build and manage the next generation of small modular nuclear reactors.”

Meanwhile, across the river: The Missouri House on March 29 passed H.B. 225 in a 108-39 vote. Dubbed the Missouri Nuclear Clean Power Act, the bill would repeal a 1976 voter-endorsed ban on utility companies billing customers for the upfront costs of nuclear plant construction.

Ameren—owner of Callaway, which is Missouri’s only nuclear power facility—attempted unsuccessfully in 2009 and again in 2015 to get the ban repealed. When the latter effort failed, the company canceled its plans for Callaway expansion, citing, among other things, construction costs.

“This bill would allow for the construction of nuclear plants in the state of Missouri,” said Rep. John Black (R., 129th Dist.), the bill’s sponsor. “As coal plants are retired, we’ll need baseload power 24/7. Nuclear plants can do that. . . . We shut down coal, all we have when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, all we have is nuclear.”

H.B. 225 was reported to the Missouri Senate on March 30.

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