SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — An Illinois House committee has approved a plan to end a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants.
The ban has been in place since 1987.
Now, the State is moving towards a clean energy future focused on eliminating carbon emissions.
In 2021, Gov. JB Pritzker signed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, which put Illinois on a path toward a completely clean energy power structure by 2050.
To get there, State Rep. Mark Walker (D-Arlington Heights) says nuclear energy is key.
“We may not be able to reach our goals for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. With wind and solar alone, especially the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing,” Walker said. “We have to save the planet from the ravages of too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. I think we all have finally come to realize that’s a fact.”
Walker introduced the bill, which would allow for the construction of new nuclear power plants.
Opponents of the bill say it would do more harm than good.
“These small reactors will not play a role in meeting the climate crisis. They are not set up to do that,” said David Kraft, director of the Nuclear Energy Information Service. “They’re too small or too expensive. They won’t even be available in numbers that would have any meaningful effect until the mid-2030s.”
As part of the moratorium, the federal government was supposed to build its own permanent disposal facility for nuclear waste the plants would produce, but that never happened.
“It would be like if Chicago built the John Hancock building and all subsequent high-rises without bathrooms,” Kraft said.
Kraft said he is concerned where the waste would go.
“Illinois not only has the most nuclear plants, we’ve had 14 reactors over the years. Eleven are operating now. But it’s generated about 11,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste, with no place [for it] to be disposed of,” he said.
Illinois is the only state in the country with its own high-level radioactive waste storage site.
Walker said new technologies have been created to store the waste more safely.