In the next couple of weeks Illinois state lawmakers could determine whether to keep a 36-year old moratorium on new nuclear plant construction.
Legislation to lift the moratorium passed with bipartisan support in May. But Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker vetoed the bill in August, saying the vague definitions in Senate Bill 76 would “open the door to proliferation of large-scale nuclear reactors that are so costly to build that they will cause exorbitant ratepayer-funded bailouts.”
Gov. Pritzker has expressed support for small modular reactors (SMRs). In his comments following the veto, he said SMRs have “real potential” but that the bill provided no regulatory protections for the health and safety of Illinois residents who would live and work around them.
The 1987 moratorium reads that new nuclear facilities cannot be built in Illinois until a permanent waste storage option is available.
Sen. Sue Rezin, a Republican from Morris, Illinois, sponsored SB 76. She is currently working with stakeholders to re-write the bill, her office said.
State lawmakers have three more days (Nov. 7th-9th) of their Fall veto session, which takes place in the Illinois General Assembly each year. During this time, lawmakers review the Governor’s vetoes and decide whether to override them.
There is no guarantee lawmakers will get to re-consider the Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 76, as leadership of both houses decide which bills will be heard.
That’s why Sen. Rezin filed a revised bill (SB 2591) on Oct. 18.
“I continue to believe that Illinois must embrace advanced nuclear technology now before our state loses its competitive edge,” she said in a statement released to Power Engineering. “I still support calling for a vote to override the Governor’s veto of my bill during the upcoming veto session. However, if, for whatever reason, the legislative leaders choose not to call my bill for an override vote, I have informed them and the Governor that I have filed a new bill that would clearly address the Governor’s stated reasons for his veto. Either way, this issue needs to be resolved before we leave Springfield in November.”
Sen. Rezin told The Associated Press she has enough support to overcome the veto if the measure is called for a vote. A three-fifths majority in both houses is needed to do so.
The intensifying debate this year over whether to lift the state’s moratorium reflects the growing public support for nuclear power.
According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, 19 states considered legislation and 12 states enacted policies to support existing and new nuclear generation in 2022. West Virginia and Connecticut repealed their nuclear moratoriums last year.
But Illinois is notable because it generates more electricity from nuclear energy than any other state, accounting for one-eighth of the nation’s total nuclear power generation. In 2022, the state’s 6 nuclear power plants, with 11 total reactors, produced 52% of the state’s electricity net generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Illinois aims to produce strictly carbon-free power by 2045.
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