Illinois residents rally for nuclear

07 May 2015

Hundreds of people gathered at the Illinois State Capitol yesterday to call for the passage of low carbon energy legislation underpinned by the continued operation of the state's nuclear capacity.

People power: nuclear supporters gather inside Illinois' historic State Capitol
(Image: Scott Peterson, NEI)

They delivered a petition of over 10,000 signatures in support of the bill to the legislators of the Illinois General Assembly who will vote on the proposed Low Carbon Portfolio Standard (LCPS) legislation. The legislation, which has already been passed by the Illinois Senate, aims to reduce carbon emissions, increase renewable energy and maintain a stable and secure electricity supply in the state. It is technology neutral, allowing all low carbon energy sources - including wind, solar, hydro, clean coal and nuclear - to compete on an equal footing.

Eleven nuclear reactors at six sites account for around a quarter of Illinois' generating capacity, but last year five of those were identified as at risk of possible closure when operator Exelon said it would consider closing non-profitable nuclear plants. A state-commissioned study found that such closures would have serious consequences for the Illinois economy - including an estimated $1.8 billion per year in lost economic activity and up to $500 million in higher energy costs, as well as increases in carbon emissions and job losses - and proposed the LCPS as a way of averting premature plant shut-downs.

The legislation's chief sponsors thanked the supporters who gathered at the State Capitol in the city of Springfield. Senator Dome Trotter described the LCPS as "critical" for the state's economy, while senator Sue Rezin thanked the energy leaders, economists, environmentalists, small business owners, labour unions, community groups and residents from across the state who had gathered to "send their message of support" for Illinois' nuclear power plants. "If any of our nuclear plants close it will impact everyone in Illinois - not just the plant communities," she said.

Doug O’Brien, executive director of the Illinois Clean Energy Coalition (ICEC), stressed that the nuclear plants' environmental, as well as economic, benefits must be recognised. "We can never hope to meet our goals for carbon reductions and make progress towards a cleaner environment if we abandon clean nuclear and increase our reliance on fossil fuels," he said.

Local officials said that the negative impacts of nuclear plant closures would be particularly hard for their communities. Deanna Mershon, executive director of the community-based Byron Chamber of Commerce, said that her community would be devastated were the Byron nuclear plant to close. "Nuclear plant closings could be disastrous to the environment and the Illinois economy, but for me it's even more personal than that … It's the very fabric of our community that will be forever and irreparably harmed," she said.

The bill must also be passed by the House before going before the state governor for final approval.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News