Publication Date

2-2016

Committee Members

John R. Mullin, Chair - Henry C. Renski, Member

Abstract

Between February 2013 and December 2014, four communities hosting a nuclear power plant in the U.S. were faced with the sudden closure of the plant. These closures were largely attributable to market changes in the energy sector, driven by sustained growth in the natural gas industry. The rise of natural gas-fired plants has recently forced several of the nation's older coal-fired and petroleum-based power plants into early retirement, and nuclear industry analysts suspect that the nuclear closures of the past two years may be just the beginning of a similar trend.

Unfortunately, the extent of nuclear power plant closure impacts has rarely been investigated until after a plant's closure is announced, and only at the broader multi-county scale commonly found in economic analysis and forecasting. This project attempts to provide an improvement on both fronts: assessing an existing plant, with no plans to close, at local and regional scales. This project uses Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station as its subject of study. The plant, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, is licensed to operate until 2032.

After contextualizing nuclear closure and nuclear decommissioning, the project inventories the plant's key characteristics as a landowner and employer. It then identifies the plant's current socioeconomic contributions, details its operational impacts on other segments of the local and regional economy, and estimates how the plant's closure would affect the town and region. This project finds that the socioeconomic impacts of closure are so significant at local and regional levels that planning and economic development agencies cannot afford to wait until closure plans are announced to engage with the topic. I conclude with recommendations for the town and the region to build the knowledge, support, and momentum necessary to ensure the success of the long-term, multi-stakeholder, and cooperative approach the plant's eventual closure will require.

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