Plans to close an infamous plant were just announced. Such closures can be devastating for local economies -- even more so than when mining and manufacturing ceases to exist in a town.
There’s at least one thing worse than having a nuclear power plant in your town. That’s having your nuclear power plant shut down. On Tuesday, Exelon Corp. announced it will close the Three Mile Island plant, the site of the worst nuclear disaster in U.S. history, in 2019.
For obvious reasons, nuclear power plants were mostly built in fairly remote places, away from population centers. But they’re big facilities, with highly paid staff. When one of them closes, it can leave enormous holes in the local tax base. The closure in 2014 of the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon, Vt., led to an overall drop in economic activity to the tune of $100 million. There aren’t a lot of other employers in the area to make up anything like that sum. As a result, taxes have shot up. “We saw roughly a 20 percent property tax increase last year,” says town clerk Tim Arsenault. “and we’ll likely see the same thing this year.”
The story is similar in other communities where plants have shut down. A decade or two later, taxes are up and the population is down. Communities that have relied on a single employer for decades suddenly have to rethink their economies. In certain ways, that’s harder than similar efforts in areas that lose their main manufacturing plant or have an extractive industry taper off. Nuclear workers are highly skilled in a specialized field. Rather than getting retrained to do something else, they simply move away. That affects the tax base, Arsenault says, and leads to a loss of human capital.