Illinois lawmakers worked to lift the 36-year-old ban on new nuclear energy construction permits this spring, with Senate Bill 76 receiving bipartisan support and headed to the Governor. Since 1987, Illinois has prohibited new nuclear construction. However, Illinois remains a nuclear power hub with 11 current operating reactors, the most of any state. Illinois is in the top three states with 54 percent of its energy generation being nuclear, while also having the most generating capacity (11.6 gigawatts) of any state.
Due to changes in the law, all investor-owned coal plants must close by 2030 and coal-fired power plants owned by municipalities must reach zero emissions or shutter by 2045. With the demand for electricity continuing to rise and nearly seven gigawatts of coal capacity being pulled off the grid in the next eight years, the General Assembly acted to help ensure the ability to produce sufficient energy safely and efficiently. While this does not do much about the threat of rolling brownouts nor address immediate energy deficits, it is a step toward ensuring future baseload capacity for residents and job creators.
Nuclear energy is a low-carbon energy source that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it is not dependent on wind or sunlight. Construction of nuclear power plants can stimulate economic activity and job growth, and these power plants can meet a significant portion of a region’s energy demand. The nuclear industry has also made a number of technological advancements and safety improvements over the years.