Living in the shadows of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant’s cooling tower, which soars above Lake Erie in Ohio like an oversized lighthouse, brings with it some give-and-take.
For the small, mostly rural towns that are home to 61 U.S. nuclear plants that produce one-fifth of the nation’s electricity, each one has been like the golden goose supplying high-paying jobs and money for roads, police and libraries.
But those same places and their residents are bracing for what may come next due to the soaring costs of running aging reactors that have speeded up the closings of a handful of sites and are threatening at least a dozen more. That’s because once the power stops flowing, so does the money.
When operations ceased at the Crystal River Nuclear Plant along Florida’s Gulf Coast, “it was like something going through and wiping out a third of your county,” said Citrus County Administrator Randy Oliver.
To make up the difference, property tax rates went up by 31 percent and 100 county workers were let go — so many that Oliver worries there won’t be enough to evacuate residents and clear roads if a major tropical storm hits.