Illinois to lift moratorium on nuclear construction

13 November 2023

Governor JB Pritzker has said he will sign a new bill lifting Illinois' ban on the construction of new nuclear reactors, after the state's lawmakers passed new legislation that will allow the construction of small modular reactors of up to 300 MWe capacity from 2026.

Bill co-sponsors Senators Sue Rezin and Lance Yednock pictured on 9 November (Image: Senator Sue Rezin)

The amended bill - HB2473 - was passed by the Illinois Senate on 8 November, by 44 votes to 7, and by the state's House of Representatives the following day, by 98 votes to 8.

Eleven nuclear reactors currently supply more than half of Illinois' electricity. Energy legislation passed by Illinois lawmakers and signed by Pritzker in 2021 ensured the continued operation of the state's existing large-scale nuclear generation fleet, but the state has had a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear capacity since 1987. The Illinois Senate and House earlier this year passed a bill that would overturn the ban, but Pritzker vetoed the earlier bill, SB76, in August saying definitions in the bill were too vague and also that it lacked sufficient regulatory protections.

The new bill, among other things, instructs the Illinois Emergency Management and Office of Homeland Security to adopt rules for the regulation of small modular reactors, including rules regarding decommissioning and emergency preparedness.

Pritzker said the Illinois General Assembly had engaged in "productive negotiations" about how to improve the legislation. "This new bill addresses my concerns from the spring sessions proposal and I'm looking forward to reviewing and signing it when it reaches my desk," he said. "Illinois is already a leader in clean energy under the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act and developing an on-ramp for responsible small nuclear reactor development is another step towards a cleaner, climate-friendly future for our state."

Senator Sue Rezin, one of the lead sponsors of the new bill, said the new legislation had been designed to "thoroughly and specifically" reflect the governor's concerns.

"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," she said.

"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."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News