Illinois Votes To Bail Out Nuclear Power Plants

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Illinois’ Democratic controlled state legislature voted Thursday to bail out several nuclear power plants in the state.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner plans on signing the bill that will raise electricity rates on Illinois residents and businesses.

Each Illinois taxpayer will have to pay between $0.25 to $4.54 a month to keep the nuclear plants open, according to The Chicago Tribune. Illinois has 11 nuclear reactors at six operating nuclear plants. All of these plants are owned by the company Exelon, which is headquartered in Chicago.

Unions, business groups and some environmentalists strongly support the legislation as the reactors have environmental benefits. A coalition of free market groups against government intervention in the economy and environmental groups opposed the measure on grounds that it takes resources away from wind and solar power.

Rauner and the Democratic legislature justify the bill by saying that it will save jobs related to the reactors and that, without nuclear power, the state’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would sharply increase.

“This corporate bailout benefits one company at the expense of all Illinois residents,” Phil Kerpen, president of the free-market group American Commitment, said in a statement emailed to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Governor Rauner should veto any version of this bill….Illinois families and businesses cannot afford another $16.4 billion in higher energy costs and lost jobs.”

America operates 99 nuclear reactors across 61 commercially operating nuclear power plants, according to the Energy Information Administration. The average plant employs between 400 and 700 highly-skilled workers, has a payroll of about $40 million and contributes $470 million to the local economy, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Nuclear power provides about 63 percent of America’s CO2 free power. A single nuclear reactor can prevent 3.1 million tons of CO2 emissions annually.

The Economist calls nuclear energy “the most cost-effective zero-emission technology.” The Wall Street Journal agrees that “[if] the world intends to address the threat of global warming and still satisfy its growing appetite for electricity, it needs an ambitious expansion of nuclear power.”

Attempts to reduce usage of nuclear power in other countries caused CO2 emissions to rapidly increase.

Germany’s government decided to abandon nuclear energy after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan galvanized opposition. Recent attempts by Germany to increase use of solar and wind power while decreasing nuclear power actually caused CO2 emissions to increase. Nuclear power’s decline in Germany created an opening for coal power, as the country needs to rely more heavily on coal plants to cover the power demand in the evenings when “green” energy doesn’t produce much power.

Coal now provides 44 percent of Germany’s power, despite the fact that coal ash is actually more radioactive than nuclear waste.

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