Letter: Attention to closing
Thanks to the Recorder for covering the Conference on Nuclear Plant Closures held April 2. The conference sponsors, the Nuclear Plant Closure Working Group, are working on an insight from professor John Mullin of UMass that there are no good strategies developed to recover from the economic impact of closing nuclear power plants.
We have been very clear that we are not thinking about why or when a plant closes, but only that for the plants we have known, particularly Yankee Rowe and Maine Yankee, the communities were worse off (in terms of economic activity and social capital) after the closing than during the plant’s operation. That is not a good outcome; nor is it one desired by the community, the state, the plant owners or the NRC. But no one has taken the time to pay attention to these impacts. With the country’s remaining 100 plants closing by 2050, these previously isolated events will become a cascade impacting rural and semi-rural communities broadly. While we are not, in fact, proposing that plant owners contribute to an economic development fund, we do note that economic recovery needs to be undertaken. We note further that the range of investment in economic redevelopment has varied widely. We think that there needs to be some research and discussion at the national level about what the benchmarks should be and to develop some best practices for community preparation for closures.
Most communities that host a nuclear power plant, including much of Southeast Vermont, Southwest New Hampshire and Franklin County, have recognized the substantial economic and job contribution Vermont Yankee made to the community. But, without respect to a person’s opinion about nuclear power or Vermont Yankee, there is no doubt that its closure will severely impact the regional economy. That will affect our people, our businesses and our communities. It requires effective attention.
The conference brought together people with a wide range of opinions on nuclear power, in a neutral atmosphere where we could discuss ways to build a better future for communities after nuclear power plants close. The participants demonstrated that it is possible to move beyond the issues that have divided us in the past in order to look forward.
We write on behalf of the working group.
JEFFREY M. LEWIS