Governor Pritzker Vetoes Dangerous Nuclear Moratorium Repeal Bill

CHICAGO—Much to the surprise of many, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker today vetoed SB76, a bill that was introduced to repeal the long-standing 1987 Illinois nuclear construction moratorium.  The bill had also been introduced as a not-so-subtle promotion for the so-called “next-generation” of nuclear reactors which nuclear advocates want to bring to Illinois.

“We are extremely grateful to the Governor for grasping the significance this bill had to thwart a renewable energy future,” notes David Kraft, Director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), a 42-year old safe energy advocacy and nuclear power watchdog organization.

“Had it passed, this bill would not only have removed all prohibitions for generating even more high-level radioactive wastes with no disposal method in place (Illinois’ currently “hosts” ~11,000 tons of orphaned spent-reactor fuel), it would have opened the door to more nuclear reactors, which could have had devastating effects on the renewable energy goals championed in the 2021 Climate and Equity Jobs Act (CEJA),” Kraft observed.

According to sources from the Governor’s Office, “The bill is vetoed because the vague definitions in the bill, including the overly broad definition of advanced reactors, will open the door to the proliferation of large-scale nuclear reactors that are so costly to build that they will cause exorbitant ratepayer-funded bailouts. Additionally, it provides no regulatory protections or updates to address the health and safety of Illinois residents who would live and work around these new reactors.” [SOURCE: Capitol Fax]

An 11th-hour language change submitted by Rep. Lance Yednock (D.-76, Ottawa) inserted language that would have supported and perhaps promoted “advanced reactors”, which can be as large as today’s present-generation reactors if and when constructed.  Along with the radioactive waste issue – the very reason for the moratorium in the first place – advanced reactors not had been discussed in the 4 months and 6 legislative hearings and floor discussions, making the language change an unacceptable bait-and-switch.

In public statements made in April, Governor Pritzker was very clear on this topic:

“The devil’s in the details,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said April 6. “We want to make sure we are not just opening this up to nuclear everywhere or every type of nuclear.”

“The Governor recognized that SB76 did exactly that,” Kraft says.

“With nuclear power, the devil is very much in the details, both technologically and politically,” Kraft continues.  “This bill was a ‘Pandora’s box’ filled with numerous, huge negative implications for Illinois’ energy future. The nuclear advocates often rely on the lack or incomplete understanding of these nuclear details to manipulate its acceptance.”

SB76 was opposed by a number of Illinois environmental and social-justice organizations including Sierra Club, Illinois Environmental Council, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Eco-Justice Collaborative, Chicago Area Peace Action, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, Greenpeace, Chicago Physicians for Social Responsibility, Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, Stand Up Save Lives,  and many others.

According to NEIS more nuclear reactors of any kind directly sabotages the renewables goals of CEJA; and means more high-level radioactive waste with no disposal solution, more nuclear rate hikes and bailouts, no just-transitions for nuclear communities, and perhaps worst of all – continuing the ever-present threat of a nuclear disaster.

Instead the legislature and the Governor should aggressively ramp up work to expand renewables, energy efficiency, energy storage, and improved transmission access.

“We at NEIS thank the Governor for this wise decision.  We believe that the Governor and the legislature should constructively use this hiatus to more thoroughly examine the full implications and impacts of moratorium repeal and advocating for more nuclear power.  That is why NEIS recommended a full year of more in-depth study of these impacts.

“In the absence of this critical knowledge, the repeal becomes a de facto referendum on Illinois’ energy future: will it be renewable? or nuclear?  That’s what’s really at stake,”  Kraft concludes.

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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 NEIS’ oral comments is also available upon request.

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

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