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Towns face the end of the nuclear era, and the problems of radioactive trash

When the nuclear era ends: Struggling Zion, Ill., a lesson for Lacey Township, Press of Atlantic city, MICHELLE BRUNETTI POST Staff Writer , 7 Oct 18 

More than 20 years after its nuclear plant closed, Zion, Illinois, is still dealing with the financial and community repercussions of its loss, says its mayor.

Almost all of the $19 million in annual property taxes the dual-reactor plant paid while in operation — about half the town’s tax base — disappeared.

“In five years it went down to $750,000 a year,” Zion Mayor Al Hill said of tax payments from the plant. “We are still trying to figure out how to dig out from under financial troubles created by the closing 20 years later.”

Lacey Township, where the Oyster Creek nuclear plant just closed, is similar in size to Zion — both have populations of about 25,000. Both nuclear plants were owned and operated by Exelon Generation.

But differences in how reliant the towns are on property taxes from their plants may save Lacey from a similar fate……….

Hill said the town knew when the plant was proposed it would have to live with an eyesore of a nuclear power plant. But the plant brought in tax dollars and a lot of jobs, he said, so people decided to go along with the tradeoff.

“But now we have spent fuel storage,”  Zion Mayor Al Hill    said, which  wasn’t part of the agreement………

The spent fuel at Zion is guarded by armed guards with automatic weapons 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“It’s behind a bunkered building,” Hill said, with the dry casks stored above ground. “You don’t need to do that if nothing can go wrong.”

Exelon officials said at a recent press conference that most of the 700 acre site in Lacey can be redeveloped after decommissioning, even with 753 metric tons of spent fuel stored there. Only the area right around the fuel would be off limits, they said.

But Hill said it won’t be a high value development, such as condos or a resort. That would require a developer to risk too much money, should an accident or attack happen.

Hill, like Lacey Township’s Juliano, is trying to get his U.S. Senators to back a bill to pay towns that host nuclear plants for acting as interim storage facilities for spent fuel rods. The rods are leftover from plant operation and must be carefully stored for hundreds of years or more.

The bill, H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2018, is co-sponsored by New Jersey’s Republican Congressman Tom MacArthur. The House of Representatives passed it in May, said MacArthur. But it has not come up for a vote in the Senate, and Juliano said he has not been able to get either of New Jersey’s senators to pay attention to the bill.

But the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2019 — H.R. 5895 — has passed and requires the Department of Energy to report on funding for municipalities hosting closed nuclear power plants. It awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

Exelon transferred its license for the Zion plant to EnergySolutions of Salt Lake City, Utah, for the decommissioning. But Exelon will take the property back and be responsible for longterm storage of spent fuel after the cleanup of the site.

EnergySolutions got control of a $680 million decommissioning fund paid for by ratepayers.

“It’s gone, and they are not done yet,” said Hill, who said the company must come up with the funds to finish. “They are going to finish. They want to do more (cleanups).”

Exelon wants to sell the Oyster Creek plant outright to Holtec International of Camden, which would take over its $900 million decommissioning fund, keep the land and be responsible for handling the spent fuel rods until the federal government finds a storage solution for them.

The NRC said it started reviewing the potential sale this week and usually takes about a year to make a decision. But it will try to finish its review in eight months, at the request of Holtec and Exelon.

Hill cautions Lacey officials and residents not to rely on Exelon for help.

“Be careful. They are not going to do anything for you,” said Hill. “They have a responsibility to their shareholders. Your responsibility is to your constituents.”

Contact: 609-272-7219

mpost@pressofac.com

Twitter @MichelleBPost

Facebook.com/EnvironmentSouthJersey     https://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/breaking/when-the-nuclear-era-ends-struggling-zion-ill-a-lesson/article_373d825c-4ae6-5c00-b75b-90f3bd50149c.html

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October 8, 2018 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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