Suburban House Democrat proposes lifting ban on nuclear expansion to build microreactors

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Six months after state lawmakers approved a $694 million government subsidy to prop up Exelon’s aging nuclear power plants at Byron and Dresden, a new plan in the Illinois House could allow for expansion of nuclear energy production at other locations.

Preserving Illinois’ massive nuclear reactors was a key linchpin of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, but another portion of Illinois energy law adopted more than three decades ago bans any new construction on nuclear plants. Rep. Mark Walker (D-Arlington Heights) sponsored a measure that would allow data centers, factories, or other large energy consumers to install smaller nuclear microreactors on site to help lighten the load on the rest of the energy grid that is becoming increasingly reliant on wind and solar energy.

"I am a great fan of saving the planet, and I believe that we have to control or eliminate, for the most part, carbon dioxide emissions to save the planet," Walker said. "The problem I’m having is that I’m not sure we have the technology to maintain a baseline of energy that we need for our industry and homes when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow; and the battery technology that people are looking at for Elon Musk or someone to invent, I’m not going to bank on that. So I believe we need a base, and my base that is not carbon based, is a new generation of nuclear."

Last year, the University of Illinois wrote a letter seeking a license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build and study a test reactor facility on campus. If Walker’s plan becomes law, the university research could help kickstart expansion of nuclear microreactors across the state.

"I think we have to lift the moratorium, because in this environment which is so complex, and we need a base energy source, we can’t just close our eyes and say, ‘No,’" Walker said. "We have to be able to consider things."

A subject matter hearing is scheduled for lawmakers to examine the issue in Springfield this week. 



March 20, 2022 at 12:47PM

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