States are Lifting Bans on Nuclear

Illinois became the most recent U.S. state to lift a prior moratorium on building new nuclear power plants but it isn’t the only state to do so.  Illinois joins West Virginia, Connecticut, Wyoming, Montana, Kentucky and Wisconsin in modifying or eliminating prior restrictions in building new nuclear power plant in state, reducing to ten the number of states which still ban new nuclear construction.

After a three-decade moratorium, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed HB 2473, legislation passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the Illinois legislature, to allow development of advanced nuclear reactors in the state.

Beginning in 2026, Illinois will allow smaller nuclear reactors—defined as those producing less than 300 megawatts of power—to be built to contribute to the state’s ability to increase its generation of carbon-free power and remain a leader in the energy sector. 

The legislation which goes into effect on June 1, 2024, calls for a feasibility study on the risks of new nuclear and puts the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Office of Homeland Security in charge of establishing rules reactor decommissioning, monitoring and emergency preparedness related to such projects, in consultation with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

In the words of the bill’s sponsors, HB 2473 “will ensure that that [Illinois] can remain a leader in the energy sector by offering us the ability to utilize the amazing advancements in new nuclear energy technology. Lifting [Illinois’] archaic moratorium on new nuclear energy construction will open the door for companies that have been developing new advanced nuclear energy technology the opportunity to invest in Illinois.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), although twelve states had some form of restriction on the construction of new nuclear power facilities as of the end of September 2023, six states have recently modified or repealed those bans, now including Illinois, West Virginia, Connecticut, Montana, Kentucky and Wisconsin.

[Update: By a vote of 34-0 (with coalfield senators joining in support), the Kentucky Senate passed Senate Bill 198 to establish the Kentucky Nuclear Energy Development Authority, create a nuclear energy ecosystem, and identify the best sites for nuclear. The bill goes to the house next, where it is expected to pass easily with the current Republican supermajority.]

Matthew Wald, writing in the May 25th, 2023 Build Nuclear Now Campaign newsletter wrote that “Illinois gets more than half its electricity from nuclear power, and it produces more electricity from nuclear reactors than any other state—about one-eighth of the national total. . . . The state has numerous industries that could decarbonize using nuclear electricity or heat.”  Previously, Governor Pritzker helped to protect several of Illinois’ fleet of 11 nuclear reactors from premature closure, protecting Illinois’ lead as the state with the most clean energy generation.

See: the Associated Press, “Pritzker signs law lifting moratorium on nuclear reactors,” published Dec. 8, 2023.

Read more at the Nuclear Newswire, “Illinois lifts ban on some new nuclear construction,” December 1, 2023.

Learn more about State Restrictions on New Nuclear  Power Facility Construction at the National Conference of State Legislatures, updated September 28, 2023.

See: US News & World Report, “Bill Supporting Development of Nuclear Energy Wins Passage in Kentucky Senate,” Feb. 26, 2024.

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