Illinois Senate “Kabuki Theater” Hearing Advances Nuclear Moratorium Repeal

CHICAGO—A Senate Energy and Public Utilities committee hearing held today advanced proposed legislation that would repeal Illinois nuclear construction moratorium, a safeguard to prevent Illinois from becoming a de facto high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) storage bin.  However, the bulk of the discussion and testimony centered around the promotion of “small modular nuclear reactors” (SMNRs) – turning the hearing into a trade show for the nuclear industry.

The vote to advance SB0076 to the full Senate for consideration was 15-1.  Seven of the 17 Committee members were co-sponsors of the proposed bill.

Committee members heard testimony and voted on the bill, introduced by Sen. Sue Rezin (R.38, Morris) that would repeal a decades-old moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power reactors in Illinois, pending a final disposal solution for the dangerous high-level radioactive wastes (HLRW) that nuclear reactors produce.

“As we testified in the House Committee last week, passage of this proposed legislation is a ‘CEJA killer,’ and will have enormous negative effects on the plans to expand renewable energy and efficiency found in the 2016 FEJA and 2021 CEJA legislation,” warned David Kraft, director of Nuclear Energy Information Service, a 42-year old nuclear power watchdog and safe-energy advocacy organization based in Chicago.

Proponents were criticized harshly by NEIS for their frequent mischaracterization, misrepresentation and inaccurate language used by Sen. Rezin and her guest speakers, one from the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the nuclear industry trade group.

The moratorium – a temporary and conditional situation – was frequently mischaracterized as a “ban”— a permanent situation — which it is not.  Its condition for enforcement only lasts until the Federal Government opens a permanent HLRW disposal facility.

Specious reasoning also dominated the pro-nuclear witness testimony and supportive Committee Members.

Senator Patrick J. Joyce (D. 40th, Kankakee) commented that the moratorium should be lifted so that we could “kick-start a conversation” about SMNRs – missing the irony that the moratorium is still in effect and today’s hearing was doing just that.  He further ignored suggestions from NEIS calling for a special “subject matter hearing” about SMNRs, where experts from both sides could get into more sorely needed details.

While proponents of repeal characterized it as necessary for “jobs” and to “relieve pressures on the grid,” no one responded to NEIS’ observation that since SMNRs could not be commercialized until the mid-2030s at best, the state would receive neither until then.

However, existing wind and solar technology and jobs DO exist and could be deployed during those wasted years in negatively affected areas, NEIS asserts.

NEIS had attempted to provide a neutral expert witness to the Committee to answer such detailed, technical questions, but was denied on a technicality.  Dr. Edwin Lyman, physicist and staff scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C. was prevented from speaking because he did not file his request 24 hours in advance.  Communications gaffs between NEIS and the Committee resulted in tentative verbal approval being given after the window for filing closed.  Dr. Lyman did file written testimony (which is available from NEIS on request), which highlighted a number of serious safety and regulatory concerns and problems with moratorium repeal and SMNRs.

In concluding its testimony urging the Committee to vote against SB0076, NEIS stated:

“SB0076 is unacceptable public policy.  It literally prematurely and unnecessarily dismantles a successfully protective statute of Illinois law.  The recent Ohio vinyl chloride train derailment and the two Boeing 737MAX crashes demonstrate what happens when effective, demonstrably protective regulation is subverted, weakened and ignored.

“No matter how well intended, SB0076 will deliberately undercut the renewable energy goals enacted in the 2021 CEJA legislation; and demonstrates a lack of deep thinking, and amounts to poor and detrimental public policy.”

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NOTE: An electronic copy of the 4-page testimony with hotlinks to sources used is available from NEIS on request:

A copy of Dr. Edwin Lyman’s written testimony is available from NEIS on request.  He can be contacted at:

NEIS is also available to conduct phone or ZOOM interviews on request.