From the Director, Spring 2019 - New Collaboration Around Nuclear Plant Closures & a Reminder of the Importance of Economic Development Planning

Chris CampanyA new effort is underway to bring federal agency attention to the economic and social impacts of nuclear plant closures. This effort led by the Nuclear Decommissioning Collaborative i s a project of the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. I was invited to participate in the inaugural meeting of the Collaborative in Washington, D.C. in April. I was joined by the Mayor Al Hill of Zion, Illinois and Rochelle Becker, Executive Director of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility in California, to represent the perspective of host communities in a convening of staff from multiple federal agencies including the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

 Much of the discussion focused on what and how existing programs could be brought to bear on the needs of host communities, but we also discussed the problem of spent nuclear fuel remaining on plant sites once the plant itself has been decommissioned. This is a federal problem, as the absence of a federal policy solution to the permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste results in a local burden. This prompted discussion of how nuclear plant host communities might engage with nuclear waste receiving communities.

We also discussed the need for a more comprehensive nuclear plant decommissioning policy that addressed the full range of issues presented by a nuclear plant closure beyond the narrower focus of radio-logical health and safety. The Windham Region is held up nationally as an example of how to plan for a nuclear plant closure as concerns about Vermont Yankee's license renewal, and later its decision to cease operations, prompted greater urgency around the development of a comprehensive economic development strategy, and increased collaboration with counterparts in Massachusetts and New Hampshire that serve communities with strong socioeconomic ties with the plant. This nuclear decommissioning policy discussion is still relevant to the Windham Region, but it's also a reminder of the need to plan for greater economic resilience at all levels.

An update to the southeastern Vermont Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) has just been completed, and has been expanded to include Bennington County to create a Southern Vermont CEDS. This will lead to the creation of a Southern Vermont Economic Development District through the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which will enable greater access to federal resources. But more importantly, it provides a guide to current thinking about opportunities to grow the economy of the southern tier of the state. The project list for inclusion in the CEDS is updated on an annual basis, and the CEDS itself is updated every five years.

Planning of all types is an iterative process, and economic development planning is necessarily a never-ending process to reflect local, regional, national, and international changes to underlying assumptions about opportunities and challenges. Among these is climate change in a region whose residents and communities are very economically dependent upon seasons and weather. The WRC will explore, in collaboration with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation which serves as the regional development corporation for the Windham Region as a whole, how to more fully-engage communities in economic development discussions. We need to apply the lessons-learned from our anticipation of, and preparation for, the closure of Vermont Yankee to the economy of the region as a whole.

Last Updated: 20 May 2019
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