NUCLEAR ILLINOIS: Illinois has more reactors and high-level radioactive waste than any other state. 11 reactors currently operate; 3 have been closed/decommissioned. To date, all of these reactors have created over 11,000 tons of highly radioactive and dangerous “spent-fuel” wastes, which are currently all stored onsite at the reactors.
According to law, the Federal Government was supposed to have created a permanent disposal repository for the spent-fuel by 1997. It failed to do so; and therefore all spent-fuel is being stored at reactor sites until a disposal facility is operating.
In 1987 environmental groups succeeded in passing a common-sense law regarding these wastes, stateing that Illinois won’t allow building more waste-producing reactors until the Federal Government builds and operates a disposal place to send radioactive waste to. That moratorium law remains in effect, and currently applies to Exelon/Constellation’s commercial power reactors only.
The potential implications of this repeal are numerous and all negative:
o The current Illinois reactors are declared so uncompetitive by Exelon/Constellation (the new Exelon “spin-off” company) that they have required over $3.0 BILLION in ratepayer-funded bailout guarantees from the State over the past 5 years. If more are built, they too will likely be deemed uncompetitive and require future bailouts.
o This attempted repeal is being done with the intention of promoting and building “small modular nuclear reactors,” (SMNRs) which will produce even more waste with no disposal site for radioactive wastes available.
o SMNRs would compete for market share and transmission access with the renewable energy projects mandated in the 2021 CEJA legislation, thus thwarting achievement of the goal of 100% renewables by 2050.
o SMNRs do not even exist yet, and will not be available at commercial scale until the 2030s at best, making the moratorium repeal illogical and premature since they too will add to the waste burden; and are a useless choice to combat the climate crisis.
o If SMNRs get fast-tracked licensed by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), they could conceivably be built at existing reactor sites, potentially by-passing critically important environmental reviews required for the existing reactors; or sites of retiring coal/gas plants, throwing a lifeline to the fossil fuel industry. This is a potential safety threat to reactor communities, and the State as a whole. And if they too become uneconomic, they would be candidates for even more ratepayer funded bailouts.
Legislators should oppose the repeal of the 1987 Nuclear Construction Moratorium and the building of new nuclear reactors in Illinois, UNTIL such time as the renewable energy goals expressed in CEJA are first completed. In addition the state should prioritize funding and efforts towards more energy efficiency, developing energy storage, and improving the transmission system.