Illinois legislators have a lot to learn about nuclear power

Lawmakers in Springfield who are not willing to put much effort into learning fundamental details have no business writing future energy legislation, writes David A. Kraft, director of the Nuclear Energy Information Service.

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Illinois Capitol.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Rich Miller’s Aug. 25 column about Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s veto of the attempt to repeal the Illinois nuclear construction moratorium provides a valuable picture of the politics behind nuclear legislation (“Pritzker sends mixed messages on moratorium of new Illinois nuclear plants”).

It also demonstrates how important it is for legislators to actually know something about what they’re advocating or voting for. It has been clear throughout all the hearings that Illinois legislators lack the depth of knowledge about proposed nuclear reactors needed before financially binding ratepayers and the Illinois economy to a pro-nuclear future.

Nuclear proponents — particularly sponsoring Sen. Sue Rezin — “hotly dispute,” as Miller wrote, Pritzker’s concerns that drafting (SB 76) that way would “open the door to large-scale nuclear power plants.” The 11th-hour language change advocating “advanced reactors” drove his concern.

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However, the governor is 100% correct and nuclear advocates 100% wrong.

A 2023 report by the Congressional Research Service clearly states, Advanced reactor designs come in a wide range of sizes, from less than 15 MWe to 1,500 MWe or more.” The latter is 400 MWe larger than an Illinois Braidwood reactor.

A simple 30-minute Google search found several other sources report “advanced reactor” sizes ranging from 600 to 1700 MWe.

Legislators not willing to put this much effort into learning such fundamental details have no business writing Illinois’ energy future legislation.

The governor said: Small Modular Reactors are very beneficial. ... They do seem to work very well, and they do seem to be safe, but they’re going to be several years of testing yet ahead.”

Well, no, governor, they do not. Simply because as you also said, they do not yet exist. They are proposed to have safer qualities. But none have been built to demonstrate them yet.

Throughout this process, our organization repeatedly advocated for creating a panel of qualified experts to better research these and other issues. The current level of demonstrated nuclear ignorance validates that suggestion.

David A. Kraft, director, Nuclear Energy Information Service

Stop releasing balloons outdoors

Chicago, we need to eliminate the intentional balloon release. This tradition occurs often at memorials, schools, weddings and other events, but it has several harmful implications for the environment.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns balloons “pop and fall back to Earth where they can create a lot of problems” for wildlife. They can be mistaken for food and, when ingested, can lead to loss of nutrition, internal injury, starvation and death. String or ribbon often found attached to balloons can cause entanglement. String can wrap around marine and bird life, causing injury, illness or suffocation.

The term “biodegradable” means harmless, and that is simply not the case. Eventually, balloons turn into microplastics that can be found in drinking water, food and even the air we breathe.

Power companies also estimate that a good percentage of their annual outages are due to balloons. The culprit is metallic or foil balloons that conduct electricity and interact with power lines.

Balloon releases have been outlawed in several municipalities and in many states including Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, California and Virginia.

Are there eco-friendly alternatives? Of course, there are. Think about planting trees, blowing bubbles, painting stones, lighting candles and luminaries, throwing natural confetti and releasing balloons indoors.

James Paskiewicz, Algonquin

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