Over the years Illinois has 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 human controlled 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.
Illinois was also home to the first large-scale commercial power reactor, Unit 1 at (then) Commonwealth Edison’s Dresden Power Station, opened in 1960. Subsequent serious radioactive contamination problems forced the permanent shutdown of this unit in 1978, thus also making it one of the first commercial power reactors to close prematurely.
ComEd’s two large Pressurized Water Reactors in Zion, IL, first opened in 1973, also had to close prematurely. They are the second and third large (over 1000 MegaWatt) power reactors to close prematurely, going offline in 1998.
Illinois also has the first and only commercial storage facility for high-level radioactive waste (HLRW), the General Electric Morris Operation (GEMO). GEMO was to have operated as a spent-nuclear fuel reprocessing facility, but the technology employed by GE was faulty and failed. The HLRW initially gathered to be reprocessed has largely remained at the site to this day.
Besides the 3 reactors that closed prematurely, Illinois currently has eleven operating nukes – far more than any other state. The Dresden Nuclear Power Station was one of the three first sites to apply for an operating license extension that would let the plant run for 20 years longer than its original design intended. (Incidentally, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), in conjunction with the nuclear industry, is exploring the option of an additional 20-year operating license extension beyond the first, meaning reactors may be licensed to operate for up to 80 years if this policy is adopted.) To date (2017), NRC has granted 20-year operating license extensions to all Illinois reactors except the Clinton-1 reactor in Central Illinois.
You can download a map of Nuclear Illinois here.
Illinois Reactors and Radioactive Waste Facts
Nuclear Illinois Facts – 2017
Nuclear Illinois Facts – 2016
Nuclear Illinois Facts – 2015
Nuclear Illinois Facts – 2013