Lawmakers approve plan to allow small-scale nuclear development

SPRINGFIELD – Lawmakers on Thursday approved a proposal that would allow companies to develop new nuclear power generation in Illinois for the first time since 1987.

House Bill 2473 does not entirely lift the 36-year-old moratorium on nuclear construction. Instead, it creates a regulatory structure for the construction of small modular nuclear reactors, or SMRs.

The bill limits the nameplate capacity of such reactors to 300 megawatts, about one-third the size of the smallest of the six existing nuclear power plants in Illinois. It also requires the state to perform a study that will inform rules for regulating SMRs, which will be adopted by regulators at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency by January 2026. 

Proponents of the measure say it is a step to make the ongoing transition away from fossil fuels more reliable for customers throughout the state, while opponents warn the unproven technology comes with safety risks and the potential for cost overruns.

The bill passed with bipartisan support in the Senate, 44-7, and the House, 98-8. The opposition came exclusively from Democrats.

Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement Thursday that he would sign the bill. He worked with lawmakers on the new language of the new bill after vetoing a broader measure this summer.

Leadership of the Illinois AFL-CIO umbrella labor organization released a statement Thursday calling the policy an “important for our state’s economy and our clean energy future.”

• Read the complete story in the Friday, Nov. 17 print edition of the Clinton Journal or now in the Journal E-Edition for subscribers.