Columns | Daily Chronicle

McCombie: Override Pritzker veto on lifting Illinois’ nuclear ban

The fight to provide low-cost, reliable clean energy to Illinois families by growing our nuclear energy industry hit a roadblock this month as Gov. JB Pritzker vetoed a bill I co-sponsored that would lift the state’s ban on building advanced, small modular nuclear reactors. This was a major disappointment, as Senate Bill 76 passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities this spring.

Since 1987, Illinois has effectively banned new nuclear construction. However, with the push to decarbonize our economy, we cannot keep an affordable, reliable, safe and carbon-free technology on the sidelines. Nuclear energy helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is not dependent on wind or sunlight. Not only that, but construction of nuclear power plants can stimulate economic activity and job growth in regions of the state where families need it most.

I am proud to represent Byron and the men and women who work at Byron Station. Prior to redistricting, my former district also included the Quad Cites Station in Rock Island County. I know how important nuclear facilities are to the lifeblood of our community, above and beyond the essential energy they provide. In fact, I introduced legislation to end the state’s ban on new nuclear construction twice, during the 2017-18 and 2019-20 legislative sessions, an effort blocked by then-House Speaker Michael Madigan.

We know that wind and solar alone do not have the infrastructure or technology to provide our state with the reliable, affordable, and efficient energy it needs. That is why it is so vital that we strengthen our nuclear energy industry and expand its footprint. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that U.S. electricity demands will grow almost 50% by 2030. Nuclear energy can help Illinois meet that demand.

The governor vetoed this pathway to inexpensive, clean energy for purely political reasons, virtue-signaling to his progressive base instead of problem-solving for working families. I will support a motion to override the Governor’s short-sighted veto when the Illinois House of Representatives returns to Springfield for our Fall Veto Session in October.

We must act to lift the ban on expanding Illinois safe, reliable nuclear industry and protect the existing jobs that are vital to our community and the entire Northwest Illinois region.

State Rep. Tony McCombie, of Savanna, is the Illinois House Republican Leader, representing the state’s 89th District in the General Assembly.