|Fig. 1: Clinton Nuclear Generation Station, Illinois (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
Nuclear energy is becoming a vital part of the American energy landscape. For the foreseeable future, the demand for this type of energy is expected to grow tremendously. Currently, the state of Illinois leads the way with overall production of nuclear energy and its effect on the national electricity grid. In time, the United States will have to accept a broader portfolio of American-produced energy solutions, and nuclear energy will be at the top of the list.
The amount of nuclear power that the power plants in state generate constitutes nearly half of the overall electricity usage in all of Illinois.  This fact alone demonstrates the growing capabilities of the nuclear power industry that is growing in the state of Illinois.
The nuclear power industry, which is seen at its best in Illinois, is a huge booster in terms of economic growth and supports high paying jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. The Clinton Nuclear Generation Station, represented in Fig. 1, is one of the largest power plants, which employs numerous workers throughout the state. It total, Illinois' nuclear facilities employ roughly 28,000 people and they all significantly contribute to the state's economy. 
Since early 2015, 3 of the 6 major reactors in Illinois have visited and contemplated the idea of shutting down the plant in its entirety.  The reason being simply that the nuclear industry is competing in an unfair market with other alternative fuels, such as wind energy, which enjoys numerous tax breaks.
If any of these plants were to shut down, let alone all three of them, it would cause a serious negative impact on the Illinois economy and could impact the national economy as well. If all three plants were lost to decommission, the lost economic activity would be worth approximately $1.8 billion a year, with a loss of roughly 7,800 jobs. [1,2] The negative economic ramifications of these shutdowns would be long lasting and felt for decades.
The nuclear reactors in the state of Illinois play a vital role in helping the state meet demand for affordable, reliable and sustainable energy. In the past two decades, the industry has increased the output and performance efficiency. For example, since 1990, the industry has increased total output equivalent to that of 26 large power plants, when in fact only five new reactors have come online. 
In light of Illinois' success within this industry and the recent announcements of possible shutdowns, it is imperative that lawmakers and the nuclear industry leaders can come to an agreement or at least an understanding. The fate of the state's economy depends on it.
© Brendon Austin. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
 "The Impact of Exelon's Nuclear Fleet on the Illinois Economy," Nuclear Energy Institute, October 2014.
 "Potential Nuclear Power Plant Closings in Illinois: Impacts and Market-Based Solutions," Illinois Commerce Commission, Illinois Power Agency, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, 5 Jan 15.