October 12, 2023

Duckworth touts Illinois clean energy, tries to reassure allies about Ukraine funding on trip to Europe

The Illinois senator visited Romania, the UK as part of a multileg trade trip.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times


On a multileg trip to Europe to promote Illinois’ clean energy advancements, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth also is reassuring foreign allies that aid to Ukraine remains a top priority for Democrats — no matter what drama ensues among House Republicans. 

Currently in the United Kingdom, the Illinois senator began her trip on Sunday with a stop in Romania, a NATO ally bordering Ukraine.

“Part of what I’m going to be bringing forward is also a messaging at the federal level from the White House and from the Senate to say, ‘Hey, we continue to support and stand with the people of Ukraine, and know that, whatever is happening in the House, that is not going to affect what the Senate does,” Duckworth said before leaving for the trip. “And the Senate is looking to pass funding for Ukraine and it’s very bipartisan.”

Duckworth said the goal is to draft a standalone bill to help continue funding for Ukraine’s war effort — with border security also attached to any legislation. 

In Bucharest, the senator met with Illinois Army National Guard members and other American service members who are advising and assisting members of the Romanian military.

She also met with Romanian Energy Minister Sebastian Burduja and representatives from the Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica, a state-owned nuclear energy company. There, she discussed small nuclear reactors that are in development in Romania in conjunction with the University of Illinois — as well as the development of modular nuclear reactors.

Small modular nuclear reactors have about one-third of the generating capacity of traditional nuclear power reactors and produce a large amount of low-carbon electricity, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“The fact that we’ve got Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab — and in particular Argonne has been part of this development of this new technology — a key component of it is using spent nuclear fuel,” Duckworth said. “That way, you’re reducing the amount of nuclear fuel that is stranded in your state.”

“So it’s really a win-win when we can provide a stable base load through nuclear, we can provide cheaper fuel energy,” Duckworth added. “And we would potentially be reusing the spent nuclear fuel that’s already in Illinois.”

That attracts major corporations that want to be carbon-neutral, she said. 

Duckworth arrived in London Wednesday for the first of several days in the United Kingdom, where she participated in a discussion with U.S. nuclear energy companies, including Constellation, GE Hitachi, Bechtel, NuScale, Terrapower, X energy, Holtec, Jacobs and Westinghouse. She also planned to meet with the U.K.’s Department of Energy Security and Net Zero as well as the Foreign Commonwealth and Development office.

“This whole trip is really learning more about both nuclear and wind and then coming in and talking about how in Illinois because of our strong clean energy sector — and our grid is rated No. 2 in the country by GridWise alliance — that we can provide that green energy package to any manufacturer that wants to invest in Illinois,” Duckworth said. “And it’s a major selling point [when] talking with these international corporations.” 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker in July led a U.K. trade mission to advance the state’s economic development goals, including in clean energy and technology. Duckworth, who sits on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, said the trip would help further those goals — and show that the country would get support on both the federal and state level should they choose to do business with Illinois.

In August, Duckworth traveled to Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines to increase ties and reinforce support between Southeast Asia and the United States. In February, she took her first trip abroad as a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, leading a congressional delegation to Japan and Indonesia.

“One of the things I’ve learned on these trips, whether it was in Japan or Korea, coming in and supporting what the state is trying to do really helps these potential partners turn the corner because they realize it’s not just states fighting for them. It’s that you’ve got the federal part behind it,” Duckworth said.

By:  Tina Sfondeles