SPRINGFIELD — An effort to lift a more than 20-year ban on building new nuclear power plants in Illinois got a boost Monday in the General Assembly.
In the late 1980s, state lawmakers barred construction of new nuclear plants until a permanent site to store radioactive waste had been completed.
The completion of such a site has been delayed ever since, but legislation approved Monday by the Illinois Senate would eliminate that requirement and effectively end the state moratorium on new plants.
State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, said other states are looking into building new reactors and Illinois should follow suit in order to try to create the jobs that can come with a new plant.
Jacobs said he knows the concerns about waste that accompany nuclear power. But, he said, Illinois is already home to reactors.
“But every day, when you turn on your lights in Illinois, you’re using nuclear power,” Jacobs said.
Exelon Corp. operates six nuclear plants in Illinois, including the Quad-Cities Generating Station in Cordova.
Efforts to roll back the ban on new construction have been introduced by lawmakers in recent years, but they haven’t moved forward.
The Senate approved the legislation on a 40-1 vote. There was no debate.
State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston, was the only “no” vote. He argued wind and solar power should be the focus of energy developers instead.
“There are plenty of green jobs that can be created by going down those two paths,” Schoenberg said.
Now that the plan moves to the House for more debate, some environmental groups will likely target lawmakers there, asking them to oppose it.
President Barack Obama’s administration this year dropped the longtime controversial plan to bury and store waste in Nevada at Yucca Mountain.
“Until that issue is resolved at a federal level, it doesn’t make any sense to make new waste,” said Charles Jackson of the Illinois Environmental Council.
A spokeswoman for Exelon didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
The legislation is Senate Bill 3388.