llinois Senate passes bill to lift ban on NPP construction

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Chicago Construction News staff writer

Illinois’ three-decade-old ban on the construction of new nuclear power plants is one step closer to being lifted. On March 30, following a bipartisan roll call, the Illinois Senate passed Senate Bill 76, which would finally end the state’s moratorium, which presenter State Senator Sue Rezin says would create jobs, lower utility costs, and provide more reliable, clean energy.

“Illinois is just one of twelve states in the entire nation to still have a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power facilities. 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,” Rezin said. “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.”

Senate Bill 76 would delete the language that provides that no construction shall commence on any new nuclear power plant to be located within the state. Under Rezin’s legislation, public utility and energy companies wouldn’t be forced to invest in nuclear energy but would merely be given the option to invest in new nuclear power construction projects. Projects could be either traditional nuclear reactors or new small modular reactors (SMRs.)

SMRs are the latest and most advanced nuclear energy technology being developed which 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.

“Building new 24-hour energy producing nuclear power stations, whether traditional or SMRs, will help improve our state’s energy grid and potentially infuse millions of dollars into local economics by providing good paying jobs,” Rezin said.

“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.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said last week that he supports the concept of lifting the nuclear construction ban to build small-scale generators that could be used to power individual factories or for other uses.

“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,” Pritzker 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.”

Bill 76 changes wording so that public utility and energy companies will not be obliged to invest in nuclear energy, but will have the option to support projects.

The state’s ban was intended to remain in place until the federal government identifies a national nuclear waste disposal strategy. In 1987, Congress identified a site in Nevada (Yucca Mountain) as the nation’s repository for nuclear waste, but opposition from the state and the White House cancelled that plan. As yet no national disposal site has been designated.

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