The Better Government Association, a nonprofit watchdog in Illinois, has won the National Press Foundation’s Thomas L. Stokes Award for Best Energy Writing.

BGA reporters Brett Chase and Madison Hopkins revealed radioactive leaks around nuclear power plants owned by Exelon and a reluctance by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to act on critical safety concerns. Illinois has more nuclear power plants than any other state, leading Chase and Hopkins to explore safety issues in a project titled “Power Struggle.”Power-Struggle

NPF judges said: “Better Government Association reporters produced a clear-eyed, ambitious investigation into safety issues at nuclear power plants, exposing a culture where regulators often deferred to the nuclear industry. Their reporting on the frayed safety net surfaced this startling fact: Of 687 whistleblower complaints filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2010-2016, not a single one was upheld.”

Honorable mention went to The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, for “Power Failure,” a series about politicians allowing utilities to shift risks and costs of new utility construction to consumers.

The Stokes Award was established in 1959 by friends and admirers of the late Thomas L. Stokes, a syndicated Washington columnist on national affairs. It is given annually for the best writing “in the independent spirit of Tom Stokes” on subjects of interest to him, including energy, natural resources and the environment. The winner of the award receives a $2,000 prize.

The judges singled out BGA from 57 entries for the Stokes award, and noted the high quality of the journalism across the energy spectrum. This year’s judges were Rod Kuckro of E&E News, Ronnie Greene of Thomson Reuters and Tom Davidson of Gannett.

The National Press Foundation is an independent nonprofit that is run by and for journalists. NPF’s sole mission is to educate journalists about today’s most pressing issues and critical toolbox training.