This week during the VETO Session, revised legislation passed to allow new small-scale nuclear plants up to 300 MW of plated capacity. For comparison, the Clinton Nuclear Plant is rated at 1,065 MW.
On Thursday the Illinois House passed legislation that lifts the ban on building new nuclear plants in the state. That ban had been in place since 1987. The bill caps the capacity of any new nuclear plant to 300 megawatts which are classified as small-scale modular reactors. Safety and environmental concerns were a big part of earlier opposition from the Governor and some Democrat legislators. The final bill still had opposition including from Rep. Lilian Jiménez who said the state should be taking more “time to assess the risks and costs before deciding to open the door to these projects." as reported in the Chicago Tribune.
Illinois Democrats' safety concerns about lifting the ban on small-scale nuclear power plants up to 300 megawatts, though, are unfounded. Democrats are ignoring the 60-year safety record of the US Navy using nuclear power on ships. In fact, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, is powered by 700 megawatts of nuclear power and is currently deployed in the Mediterranean to deter Iranian aggression. Sailors spend months on these ships and others, like nuclear-powered submarines, and literally sleep next to the reactors and nuclear weapons that are onboard. My retired Navy Captain friend who commanded a nuclear submarine said sailors have less radiation exposure than someone flying a couple of flights across the country in a commercial airplane.
Additionally, on the same day that Illinois limited new nuclear reactors to only small-scale ones, NuScale, supported by the Energy Department, canceled their project due to cost. It appears that small-scale reactors are not yet commercially viable; perhaps Gov. Pritzker knew that all along.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, "Shares of NuScale Power were down about 35% Thursday after the small modular nuclear reactor company said its first project would be canceled due to surging costs. It's a fresh setback for companies trying to show that smaller-scale fission reactors could be cheaper and more practical than their massive predecessors. NuScale was working on a project in Utah with support from the Energy Department. Last week, small modular reactor startup X-energy and a SPAC backed by Ares Management canceled a deal that would have taken X-energy public."
Axios also reported on the cancellation stating, “NuScale and UAMPs had initially planned to build six small modular reactors totaling about 462 MW. Participating towns began to pull out of the SMR project as construction costs climbed from $5.3 billion to $9.3 billion.”
Of course, none of the above information was part of the debate about limiting new nuclear plants to 300 megawatts. Meanwhile, there is no way Pritzker can power his green energy fantasy without the reliability of nuclear power.