Illinois Lifts Nuclear Plant Moratorium In Landmark Move

For the first time in nearly 40 years, new nuclear power generators will be allowed to be constructed in Illinois.

On Friday, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a new bill that will lift a moratorium on building nuclear reactors in Illinois that had stood for almost four decades.

Under the bill, the power generators that can be built are called SMRs, or small modular reactors. In essence, they fit into a new wave of modern technology that makes them different than traditional BWRs, or boiling water reactors.

These nuclear reactors would have the ability to produce no more than 300 megawatts of power, enough to power roughly 45,000 homes. The advantage of these reactors is they can be integrated into a multi-SMR network, which would be able to power a medium city.

The new reactors can start being built as of 2026.

Before signing the bill Friday, Pritzker made some amendments to it, a version of which he vetoed in August.

The slight changes he made to the bill include requiring a study be conducted on any risks modern nuclear technology presents as well as giving oversight authority to a new state agency.

Proponents of lifting the moratorium — including the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Sue Rezin — say nuclear technology will be important to the future of renewable energy in Illinois.

Rezin said the bill will ensure that our state can remain a leader in the energy sector by offering us the ability to utilize the amazing advancements in new nuclear energy technology.”

Environmental activists claim that other renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are enough to allow the state to move away from fossil fuels.

The bill’s supporters, though, say Illinois’ current plan to close all power plants that are coal-fired by 2045 will only be done by using state subsidies that will keep two nuclear plants operating so energy needs are met.

Illinois is considered nuclear power’s birthplace. It initiated the first self-sustaining, controlled nuclear chain reaction in the world at the University of Chicago in 1942.