It is inevitable that nuclear power plants will close. Even if everything goes right, the operating lifetime of a nuclear plant is limited by the expiration date on the plant’s operating license.
The closure of a nuclear power station can have tremendous negative economic impact on the communities nearby. Jobs are lost, both at the plant, and the secondary jobs in the surrounding communities that are supported by the workers and their families. The tax base of various local taxing bodies – school districts, police and fire service, towns and counties the plant is located near or in – all will experience huge reductions in available funds which can have enormous impacts on the functioning of essential public services. Real estate values and housing markets will change drastically, unless the local community can attract new and equally large businesses to replace an operating nuclear plant.
Knowing that this is the inevitable fate upon reactor closures, it is critical that transition planning for closure takes place well before it happens. It’s the difference between planned pain and out right economic crisis. The key to avoiding such a crisis is – “just transitions.”
Just transitions is the pre-planning for inevitable reactor closure that will both soften the economic blow from lost tax base revenues, while bringing in new business and job opportunities for the affected communities.
In spite of arguments to the contrary, nuclear utilities, being a “company town” type employer, do have at the very least a moral obligation to help the communities they impact plan for responsible closure. So that the outcome is fair to both parties, this obligation should be made a legal obligation as well, spelling out clearly what those obligations are.
Residents who would be affected by the closure of nuclear plants need to force state legislators to enact “just transitions” laws to plan in advance for the inevitable effects of reactor closure. After all, responsible adults plan for their retirements before they retire. So should responsible communities and nuclear utilities.