Already home to more nuclear power plants than any state in the nation, Illinois is on the verge of lifting a nearly four-decade-old ban on building reactors as the state transitions from coal and natural gas. “It’s extremely unlikely that will really make a difference, certainly not in the short term, because there’s no one waiting here to start building a nuclear power plant as soon as the law changes,” said Robert Rosner, a theoretical physicist and founding co-director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. “In the final analysis, whether or not nuclear will ever happen again, anywhere in the United States, I think really depends on economics.” Rosner, the University of Chicago expert, said finding a solution to the long-running waste storage issue is the main action the federal government could take to create a more certain future for nuclear power. The waste in places like Zion “will sit there forever until the federal government comes to grips with the fact that they have the responsibility to take it,” Rosner said. Whether a new generation of smaller plants will take their place will depend largely on whether the technology in development can produce electricity at a price that’s competitive with the combined cost of wind and solar power and the battery storage technology that will be necessary to ensure the lights come on whenever a customer flips a switch, University of Chicago’s Rosner said.

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