Illinois Legislature Paves Way for More Nuclear Power

Since 1987, a moratorium has been in place in the state of Illinois preventing the construction of new nuclear power facilities. Now, the Illinois Senate voted 40-1 to repeal that ban, and with passage in the House as well a state that already gets 48 percent of its power from nuclear reactors could be upping that percentage even further.

Illinois has six currently operating nuclear power plants, five of which have two reactors. Exelon Energy owns all of the plants, and they have already been issued an early site permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build a second reactor at the lone single-reactor site.

Across the country, we get about 20 percent of our electricity from nuclear power, so Illinois is a bit off the charts. In fact, the state ranked first in nuclear power generation and capacity in 2008. Of course, recent momentum has pushed nuclear power back to the fore, with President Obama touting its potential and the government recently offering its first loan guarantee for new reactors. That project will receive $8.33 billion to build two new reactors in Georgia.

Interestingly, the Illinois moratorium on new plants was put in place until an acceptable permanent repository for nuclear waste could be found. Earlier this year the Obama administration announced they would pull the permit application to use the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada, which was the only permanent storage site under consideration. Now, even without a replacement, Illinois is changing its tune.

And if you're pondering the "green" potential of nuclear power, then consider this: Illinois, with its 48 percent of power generated by nuclear reactors, ranked sixth from the top in terms of state carbon dioxide emissions in 2007. It does rank fifth in population, but with such a high percentage of its power from a supposedly carbon-free source, one might expect a bit better result.

Photo of Byron Nuclear Generation Station in Illinois via Ben Jacobson on Wikimedia Commons.

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