JB Pritzker

Pritzker vetoes bill aiming to end Illinois' moratorium on nuclear plant construction

JEFF HAYNES | AFP | Getty Images

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday that he had vetoed a bill that would have ended a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants.

Senate Bill 76 would have allowed the resumption of construction of new reactors, and had passed the General Assembly earlier this year.

That moratorium, in place since the 1980’s, was enacted over concerns about the disposal of nuclear waste, and Pritzker cited those same concerns in a veto statement, while also expressing concerns about costs borne by ratepayers and about overly-broad language within the legislation.

“The bill is vetoed because the vague definitions in the bill, including the overly-broad definition of advanced reactors, will open the door to the proliferation of large-scale nuclear reactors that are so costly to build that they will cause exorbitant ratepayer-funded bailouts,” Pritzker said in a statement.

The governor also criticized the bill for failing to take into account potential health implications for employees and residents who would live near the newly-constructed plants.

Pritzker said he supports so-called “Small Modular Reactors,” but that he would want such construction and planning to take place in coordination with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

According to Capitol News Illinois, Republican State Sen. Sue Rezin, the primary sponsor of the legislation, has announced she will file paperwork to attempt to override Pritzker’s veto.

The legislation passed the Senate 39-13 in March, and later passed the House 84-22 in May. Both margins would be sufficient to override Pritzker’s veto, but it remains unclear whether state Democrats will once again join with Republicans in attempting to pass the measure.

More than 400 witness slips were submitted for consideration, with a majority supporting the bill. In a show of how divided Democrats were on the measure, a slew of different labor unions expressed support, saying it could generate construction jobs and energy-sector jobs as natural gas and coal plants shut down.

Climate Jobs Illinois, the Illinois Municipal League, the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association and the Illinois Farm Bureau also filed slips in support of the measure.

The Illinois Environmental Council, the Prairie State Conservation Coalition and the Sierra Club of Illinois voiced opposition, citing concerns over the environmental impacts of the plants and concerns over potential drinking water contamination around plants.

The bill would have allowed plants that meet the government’s definition of “advanced reactor,” and that those reactors would be required to meet specific safety measures and reduced waste yields, according to Rezin’s office.

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