Illinois lawmakers pass new bill to lift state’s nuclear ban

November 9, 2023, 3:01PMNuclear News
Sen. Sue Rezin (at lectern), speaking on H.B. 2473 on Tuesday. (Photo: Sue Rezin)

While an initial bill aimed at lifting the decades-old ban on new nuclear construction in Illinois was vetoed in August by Gov. J. B. Pritzker, the state’s nuclear-friendly legislature is giving the effort another shot, opting to pursue new legislation rather than a veto override.

In a 98–8 vote this morning—the final day of the General Assembly’s three-day fall veto session—the Illinois House of Representatives passed H.B. 2473, a measure specifically designed to address the concerns Pritzker had expressed in his veto message on the earlier bill, S.B. 76. The Senate endorsed H.B. 2473 yesterday in a similarly one-sided vote of 44–7.

According to Pritzker’s August 11 veto message, S.B. 76 included an overly broad definition of “advanced reactors,” which would “open the door to the proliferation of large-scale nuclear reactors that are so costly to build that they will cause exorbitant ratepayer-funded bailouts.” Pritzker also claimed that the bill lacked “regulatory protections or updates to address the health and safety of Illinois residents who would live and work around these new reactors.”

The new bill: H.B. 2473, sponsored by Rep. Lance Yednock (D., 76th Dist.) in the House and Sen. Sue Rezin (R., 38th Dist.) in the Senate, would lift the state’s nuclear construction moratorium for reactors rated at 300 megawatts or less, beginning January 1, 2026. In addition, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Office of Homeland Security would be directed to establish rules for reactor decommissioning, environmental monitoring, and emergency preparedness by that date, with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency also providing consultation.

Further, under H.B. 2473, the governor would be authorized to commission a study to research the state’s role in guiding the development of new nuclear technology.

Words from the sponsors: “Nuclear accounts for about half of our energy in the state, and 90 percent of our carbon-free energy,” said Yednock. “In order to achieve our clean energy goals, we may have to invest in more nuclear-generated carbon-free energy.”

Following yesterday’s Senate vote, Rezin, who was also the lead sponsor of S.B. 76, noted, “The federal regulatory permitting process already takes six to eight years, so if we want to take advantage of the amazing advancements in new nuclear technology that have occurred over the past decade and prevent our state from falling behind the rest of the nation, we need to end this moratorium now. Nuclear provides clean, reliable, and secure energy that we can count on as we strive to reach our clean energy goals in Illinois. With the passage of this legislation, we provide our state with the opportunity to truly embrace the next generation of nuclear technology and all of the benefits that it offers.”

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