Nuclear Illinois

Illinois is by far the most nuclear state in the United States. We have been plagued by a series of firsts and mosts …

In December 1942, under the stands of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard initiated the first atomic chain reaction in history. Thus began the atomic age.
The reactor, Chicago Pile One (CP-1), was later rechristened the CP-2 and moved to nearby Palos Park as part of the Manhattan Project. A second reactor, the CP-3, was also built there. After the war,waste from and parts of both reactors were buried there; the dumpsite area is now part of the Palos Hills forest preserve. Here are pictures of CP-1 and CP-3.

Illinois was also home to the first commercial power reactor, Unit 1 at Commonwealth Edison’s Dresden Power Station. Subsequent problems forced the permanent shutdown of this unit, thus also making it one of the first commercial power reactors to close prematurely.

ComEd’s two large PWR reactors in Zion, IL also had to close prematurely. They are the second and third large (over 1000 MegaWatt) power reactors to close prematurely.

We also have the first and only commercial storage facility for high level waste, the GE Morris Operation.

Besides the 3 plants which closed prematurely, Illinois currently has eleven operating nukes – far more than any other state. The Dresden Nuclear Power Station is one of the three first sites to apply for a license extension that would let the plant run for much longer that its original design intended. (Incidentally, the NRC has agreed to give ComEd taxpayer money for free to fund this application process! NEIS is not pleased with this turn of events.)

You can download a map of Nuclear Illinois here.


So what are the sites and facilities that make this “Nuclear Illinois”?

Operating Reactors:

  • Braidwood I, Braidwood II – 20 Miles South South West of Joliet, IL
  • Byron I, Byron II – 17 Miles Southwest of Rockford, IL
  • Clinton I – 6 Miles East of Clinton, IL
  • Dresden II, Dresden III – 9 Miles East of Morris, IL
  • LaSalle I, LaSalle II – 11 Miles Southeast of Ottawa, IL
  • Quad Cities I, Quad Cities II – 20 Miles Northeast of Moline, IL

Closed reactors:

  • Dresden I
  • Zion I and Zion II
  • University of Illinois TRIGA research reactor

Planned new reactor:

  • Clinton II

Nuclear Fuel Production Sites:

  • Honeywell Specialty Chemicals Plant in Metropolis, IL Converts uranium dioxide into uranium hexafluoride
  • Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant – In Paducah Kentucky, just across the Ohio river from Illinois. 10 Billion Gallons (that’s Billion with a “B”!) of contaminated groundwater

Research Facilities

    that work with Radioactive Material:

  • Argonne National Labs (Argonne, near Darrien, Woodridge and Lemont – all Chicago Suburbs)
  • Fermilab (Batavia)

Nuclear Waste Dumps:


  • The GE Morris Operation – Storage for High Level Radioactive Waste
  • Radioactive Waste Dump in Sheffield, Illinois – closed in 1978 when it reached capacity, later it developed leaks and was abandoned by its operator (US Ecology).
  • Manhattan Project Wastes buried in the Palos Forest Preserve. A publicly accessible nuclear waste dump – perhaps the only one in the world!
  • Spent fuel at Illinois reactors

Waste Transportation Routes

    to Yucca Mountain, NV (if and when it opens):

  • I-80, I-70, I-24, I-57, and I-54
  • Norfolk Southern Railroad; Southern Pacific Railroad; CSX Railroad; Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (ATSF), Chicago & Northwest Railroad (CNW), Conrail, and Grand Trunk Western Railroad (GTW)

Contaminated Sites:

  • Exelon has finally been forced to admit posioning the water supply near the Braidwood Nuclear Power Station, with Radioactive Tritium and other contaminants.
  • Two Kerr-McGee sites in West Chicago (Kress Creek and a Sewage Treatment Plant) are contaminated by remains of Thorium processing.
  • Radium contamination numerous places in Ottawa, IL (once proudly known as “Radium City”.) Thought to be from wrist watch manufacturing at The Radium Dial Company (RDC) and Luminous Processes Incorporated (LPI).

Contaminated sites supposedly now all cleaned up:

  • Kerr-McGee thorium tailings in West Chicago (Reed-Keppler Park, and Homes built on over radioactive thorium tailings).
  • Argonne National Labs – Once home to numerous reactors (Janus, CP-5, EBWR, Argonaut(CP-11), Juggernaut, etc.).


Illinois' Nuclear Power Watchdog since 1981