Shutting down the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, New York, will provoke a wide range of emotional reactions.
Anti-nuke activists, who were glum the day the plant was commissioned in September 1973 are bound to feel joyful over news that Entergy Corporation in an agreement with the state, would close the plant with two operating reactors by April 2021. The state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, would likely feel vindicated, given his stance for years that the plant was too close to New York City. And residents of Buchanan, a village with 2,230 residents will likely feel anger, disappointment, and resignation, given the plant is the largest employer, the largest property taxpayer and the largest – well, the largest of many categories – in the surrounding area.
Executives at Entergy Corporation, which owns the plant, are likely to have a range of emotions, as well. Some of them might feel relief, given the plant’s long-standing track record as a maintenance headache that has been subjected to unplanned outages owing to a variety of problems, including buckling of the steel liner in the plant’s Unit 2 reactor containment vessel dome only five months after the reactor was commissioned.
A series of nuance leaks that raised alarming headlines occurred in 1980, 2000 and 2005. A transformer fire at the plant’s Unit 3 rattled many residents around the region in 2015. And in November 2017, a leak of radioactive steam – albeit with low levels of radioactivity – was released into the atmosphere intentionally after an unplanned Unit 2 shut down.
Despite the point that an automatic shut down indicates the safety systems are running as planned, such incidents are not usually interpreted by the community as signs that their safety is guaranteed.
Despite the headaches, the plant still represents a disproportionate place in the local tax revenue rolls. It may be a behemoth, but it’s one that pays its way.
An article in Forbes this week reveals the plant’s closing means the loss of 1,000 permanent jobs and hundreds of contract jobs that come about during maintenance outages for refueling and other tasks.
That affects the local economy, as nuclear power plant jobs pay well above the average wage, making its workers a valuable asset regarding their tax contributions. Also, these workers spend money locally, passing the plant’s largesse around.
The closure will decimate some tax rolls. Although the relatively wealthy Westchester County stands to lose only 1 percent of its tax revenue when Indian Point closes, the local school district will lose a third of its revenue.
The Village of Buchanan will lose more than 45 percent of its local tax levy, while the local fire district will lose 64 percent.
Of course, some of this revenue loss might be moot if workers leave town in search of work.
Entergy and the State of New York have certainly looked at the loss of electricity represented by shutting down Unit 2 and Unit 3 – which generate more than 2,000 megawatts of electricity.
They looked at that loss, which amounts to 25 percent of New York City and Westchester’s electricity demand because closing a plant is a trade-off. It increases safety to close a nuclear power plant. But that safety could be offset if brownouts or blackouts plague New York City after the plant closes.
There is no anticipation of that occurring, but these decisions have various balance points. Residents could be relieved that they will no longer be threatened by the proximity to a dangerous nuclear power plant. But that might not matter. They might have to move out of town, anyway, in search of new jobs.