Energy

Closing This Nuclear Reactor Will Devastate A Small American Town

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter

A nuclear power plant in Nebraska closed Monday, which will devastate the local economy and ultimately eliminate 700 jobs.

Large scale layoffs at the plant will begin next year, with 400 people getting terminated over the next 20 months. The remaining 300 will stay on to help shut the plant down. Terminated employees at the plant will receive severance pay and medical, dental and vision insurance for a limited time.

The town of Fort Calhoun is relatively small, with only 908 residents in 2010. The town’s unemployment rate is currently a very low 3.2 percent, but shutting down the reactor will undoubtedly increase that.

The Fort Calhoun nuclear plant cranked out electricity for 43 years, and it was licensed for another 17. Decommissioning it will cost up to $1.5 billion, and take up to 60 years to complete, but this is still cheaper than losing money to subsidized wind and solar power.

Environmental regulations require that solar and wind power always be used if available and give substantial financial incentives to encourage green energy use, which can negatively impact the price of power and devastate nuclear power. Due to lucrative subsidies and other financial incentives, solar and wind power can still turn a profit from negative prices.

The average nuclear plant is required to spend $22 million annually simply complying with government regulations, according to research. Getting regulatory approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build a new reactor can take up to 25 years, while building a new plant by itself only takes about 10 of those years. The NRC requires so much paperwork from the nuclear power providers that the average plant requires 86 full-time employees just to go through it all.

A nuclear plant in Maryland visited by The Daily Caller News Foundation in April contributes $397 million to the state’s gross domestic product, mostly by keeping the price of electricity low, and indirectly creates another 1,400 in-state full-time jobs, according to a study by the pro-nuclear group Nuclear Matters.

America currently operates 99 nuclear reactors across 61 commercially operating nuclear power plants, according to the Energy Information Administration. The average plant employs between 400 and 700 highly-skilled workers, has a payroll of about $40 million and contributes $470 million to the local economy, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Within the past two years, six states have shut down nuclear plants and many other reactors are risking premature retirement. When the two-reactor San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California was shuttered in 2012, consumers paid an extra $350 million for electricity, according to academic research.

Unlike solar and wind, nuclear power receives no federal tax credits or state green energy mandates. Nuclear power does receive subsidies, but it gets 81.5 times less than solar power per unit of energy generated.

The economic advantages of nuclear power have caused large majorities of scientists, engineers and economists to support nuclear power. Opinion polls show the more people know about nuclear power, the more likely they are to support it.

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