The recent nuclear disaster has prompted many states to re-evaluate their own nuclear energy futures or pose tighter restrictions on current plants, including Illinois. But Illinois State Rep. JoAnn Osmond, who introduced a bill to the House that would end the state’s moratorium on nuclear power plants dating from 1987, decided to virtually scrap the bill and focus her efforts elsewhere.
The Republican from Antioch had introduced the bill in January of this year and seven other Republicans signed on as co-sponsors in hopes of pushing the bill through the House and eventually into law. But Osmond made the decision in light of the major issues that Japan is having with the Fukushima nuclear power plant just 150 miles from Tokyo. She originally drafted the plans for the bill because she believed it would create more jobs in Illinois, which is currently the most nuclear state in the country with the largest network of nuclear facilities. In total, Illinois has six nuclear power plants with nuclear power contributing to well over 40 percent of Illinois’ energy needs.
All six of Illinois’ nuclear power stations are located in the northern half of the state and all are owned by Exelon, a Chicago-based energy company that owns and operates nuclear, hydro, fossil fuel, and renewable energy plants in several different states.
Illinois lawmakers have already taken several steps in responding to concerns over the nuclear disaster in Japan. Earlier this month, Gov. Pat Quinn announced that he would be pushing for the state to impose higher fees on Exelon that would insure more safety measures would be taken at the facilities, including more private and government inspections at the six nuclear power plants. Quinn also met with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to review Illinois emergency plans, including the events of a nuclear disaster.
The ban of building any more nuclear reactors in the state was adopted in 1987, a year after the Chernobyl accident which had shocked the world. Additionally, fears were growing that nuclear waste would pile up in Illinois and the state could even see high amounts of nuclear waste from out-of-state nuclear sites as well. At the time, Illinois was still finishing up the construction of several nuclear facilities. Despite the ban, nuclear power has done extremely well in Illinois. Even last year, Illinois state Senate members voted nearly unanimously to overturn a bill that would ultimately remove the moratorium.
Rachel Krech provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. As a college student from the Chicago suburbs pursuing two science degrees, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.