The Illinois General Assembly has given the nod to S.B. 0076, a bill that would repeal the state’s decades-old moratorium on new nuclear power plant construction.
After passing the Senate in a 39–13 vote on March 30, the legislation proceeded to the House, where it was amended and approved 84–22 on May 18, then sent back to the Senate for concurrence. Late on May 19, the Senate agreed, 36–14 (with 3 voting “present”), to the proposed amendment. The bill now moves to Gov. J. B. Pritzker’s desk for consideration.
Introduced on January 20 by Sen. Sue Rezin (R., 38th Dist.), S.B. 0076 deletes 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.”
Along the way, the bipartisan measure garnered 21 cosponsors in the Senate and 48 cosponsors in the House.
The amendment: Offered by Rep. Lance Yednock (D., 76th Dist.), the amendment to S.B. 0076 requires that any new power reactor built in Illinois must be “an advanced nuclear reactor” as the term is described in federal law—specifically 42 U.S.C. 16271. The amendment additionally clarifies that “this subsection does not apply to the renewal or subsequent renewal of any license for an existing nuclear reactor.”
On May 17, as his chamber debated the bill, Yednock said, “We must make sure Illinois continues to modernize and solidify its place as a leader in the clean energy economy, and we can do so by removing this unnecessary and outdated moratorium. As renewable energy like wind and solar continue to grow, nuclear power can help Illinois improve its energy grid reliability with minimal to no greenhouse gas emissions.”
Will Pritzker approve? At this writing, the Illinois governor has not commented publicly on the passage of S.B. 0076. In early April, however, following the bill’s endorsement by the Senate, Pritzker did suggest that he was not categorically opposed to lifting the ban, and added some kind words for small modular reactors in particular. “These are smaller, less prone to an accident, more likely for us to be able to maintain them for a long period of time—that’s something that’s worthy of consideration,” he said. “Now the devil’s in the details, and we want to make sure that we’re not just opening this up to nuclear everywhere or any type of nuclear.”