CHICAGO– A House Public Utilities committee meeting held today was the scene of the opening rounds of the next “nuclear war” in Illinois.

Committee members heard testimony and voted on HB1079, introduced by Rep. Mark Walker (D. 53rd, Arlington Heights) 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 reactors produce.

The Committee voted 18 to 3 to advance the bill to the full House for consideration.

“Passage of this 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.

“While it seems like an innocent minor change in State law, it opens the flood gates for the so-called ‘next-generation’ nuclear reactors – ‘small modular nuclear reactors’ (SMNRs) – which would then compete with renewables for market share and transmission access,” Kraft asserts.

NEIS testimony pointed out that the moratorium repeal found in HB1709 and a similar Senate bill – SB0076 – are necessary before any power reactors can be constructed.  The Senate bill goes a step farther, calling for actual support for SMNRs.

“Moratorium repeal would be a lot like allowing the John Hancock building and all skyscrapers built after it to be constructed without bathrooms.  Does that sound like sane and prudent public policy?” Kraft asks.

While proponents state that this is necessary for jobs and economic development, and to fight climate change, NEIS testimony was quick to counter these arguments.

“These reactors do not even exist other than on paper and in the excited and gullible minds of nuclear proponents,” Kraft points out.  Assuming the designs even work, which has not been proven, they will not be commercially available until the 2030s at the earliest. This makes them unsuited to meet the current 2030 Climate Crisis deadlines stipulated by the IPCC,” Kraft explains. Many energy experts, including two former Chairpersons of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have spoken out against SMNRs as potential climate crisis solutions.

“The ‘jobs’ argument is always the incentive (read: “bribe”) held out to get quick and unthinking support for any project.  Just because we create construction and guard jobs by building prisons does not argue for more crime,” Kraft notes, tongue-in-cheek.

NEIS also pointed out safety concerns, poor economics, and the fact that more reactors of ANY kind guarantees that more radioactive waste will be produced – the very thing the moratorium was established to guard against – as reasons to keep the moratorium and slow the stampede supporting SMNRs.

Worst of all, the Committee failed utterly in dealing with the substance of the moratorium – protecting Illinois from producing more high-level radioactive waste, and disposing of what we have created.  Instead, the four proponents turned the proceeding into a trade show for SMNRs, without addressing the waste issue and the numerous other unresolved issues relating to nuclear power in Illinois that NEIS has pointed out since the 2016 FEJA legislation was debated.

In concluding its testimony urging the Committee to vote against HB1079, NEIS stated:

“HB1079 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, HB1079 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 fo NEIS’ oral comments ia also available upon request.

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