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Its Nuclear Plant Closed, Maine Town Is Full of Regret

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the and-you're-done dept.

Power 380

mdsolar writes in with a story about the fallout from a nuclear plant closing on a small town in Maine. "In a wooded area behind a camouflage-clad guard holding an assault rifle, dozens of hulking casks packed with radioactive waste rest on concrete pads — relics of the shuttered nuclear plant that once powered the region and made this fishing town feel rich. In the 17 years since Maine Yankee began dismantling its reactors and shedding its 600 workers, this small, coastal town north of Portland has experienced drastic changes: property taxes have spiked by more than 10 times for the town's 3,700 residents, the number living in poverty has more than doubled as many professionals left, and town services and jobs have been cut. 'I have yet to meet anyone happy that Maine Yankee is gone,' said Laurie Smith, the town manager. 'All these years later, we're still feeling the loss of jobs, the economic downturn, and the huge tax increases.'"

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And no plutonium to show for it (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901341)

Think of the space probes

Shift (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901357)

And in North Dakota, the opposite thing is happening. We can't all have everything, we need to select the best and least toxic way to fuel our country's demand for energy and pursue it. The Mainiacs would be screaming twice as loud if the nuclear plant had suffered an event that released even modest levels of radioactivity into their pristine environment. They should be celebrating - they gambled, they won. (Except for the multi billion dollar cleanup, even without a meltdown.)

Re:Shift (4, Insightful)

thaylin (555395) | about 10 months ago | (#44901477)

And in North Dakota, the opposite thing is happening. We can't all have everything, we need to select the best and least toxic way to fuel our country's demand for energy and pursue it. The Mainiacs would be screaming twice as loud if the nuclear plant had suffered an event that released even modest levels of radioactivity into their pristine environment. They should be celebrating - they gambled, they won. (Except for the multi billion dollar cleanup, even without a meltdown.)

Except that Nuclear is still the best solution if you are talking about the least toxic, unless you ignore all the fracking, and greenhouse emissions, and other issues that comes with burning carbon fuels. Renewable is not there yet to support the people.

This is disputed (-1, Troll)

Marrow (195242) | about 10 months ago | (#44901553)

I have read that nuclear is not really net clean. That the mining and preparation of the nuclear fuel is quite carbon dirty. Not to mention the enormous costs of the structures and transportation of the fuel and whatever.
The amount of money we have spent on Nuclear was a waste compared to much greater advances we could have made in solar to achieve the same output.

Re:This is disputed (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901635)

Hold on... Where did you read that? ? ? Nuclear is by far the cleanest and most superior way to provide power. The melt down at Three Mile Island only leaked the amount of radiation as a chest x-ray. Carter even toured the facility a couple of weeks after it happened. Chernobyl was the result of shoddy, bureaucratic management - see how well that worked for the USSR. It's too bad many people are ignorant about nuclear power.

Solar is dead. Most of the US doesn't get enough sun to make solar feasible. And the lead battery technology used to store solar electricity is nasty. Have you seen what lead battery recycling has done to Mexico, India, and China? Absolutely disgusting. It destroys entire towns and small ecosystems.

Re:This is disputed (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901721)

Solar is dead. Most of the US doesn't get enough sun to make solar feasible.

http://americablog.com/2013/02/fox-news-solar-only-works-in-germany-because-its-sunny-there.html

Re:This is disputed (5, Insightful)

gewalker (57809) | about 10 months ago | (#44901977)

So this Fox News story was idiotic. Solar only works in Germany because it is heavily subsidized. German consumers pay a great deal more for electricity than they would without the solar subsidies. Solar will always be expensive until you figure out a way to create a much less expensive solar infrastructure, such as nano-tech based solar that you paint on a road or a roof. You have to maintain solar arrays and the low power density means large areas are needed for solar capture, and the sun does not shine at night, so you have to solve the energy storage problem too.

Re:This is disputed (2)

QBasicer (781745) | about 10 months ago | (#44901731)

I think they meant it was dirty because of all the mining you have to do to get the uranium out of the ground.

Re:This is disputed (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901911)

Which is far less than the mining or drilling for fossil fuels!

Re:This is disputed (4, Insightful)

Shavano (2541114) | about 10 months ago | (#44901921)

Yes you do, but a little bit of uranium goes a long way. 1kg of uranium produces as much energy as 14 tonnes of coal. That energy equivalency isn't exact, because the uranium has to be refined after mining. I have no figures for how much that adds to the carbon emissions related with producing energy from uranium but it's not a factor of 14000. And despite failures, the uranium IS easier to contain. The pollution from coal or gas can't be contained at all on a commercial scale. It just spews into the air. The issue with nuclear is the intense toxicity and radioactivity of the byproducts. That calls for very careful reactor design with multiple levels of failsafes. With coal, oil and gas we have just assumed it was OK to spew millions of tonnes of crap into the air, but it turns out that it's not OK at all. The Earth can't absorb all that shit without changes to the atmosphere and oceans that affect life all over the planet.

Re:This is disputed (2, Funny)

sycodon (149926) | about 10 months ago | (#44901947)

Hold on... Where did you read that? ? ?

No doubt, on the Internet.

Bonjour!

Re:This is disputed (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 10 months ago | (#44901979)

And the lead battery technology used to store solar electricity is nasty.

That's probably the worst thing you could do with solar electricity. You either store it in pumped storage, either hydroelectric or pneumatic, or even better, you anticipate the inputs in individual geographic areas (what do we have all those real time meteo satellites for?) and use the grid to redistribute it. Of course, if your grid is incapable of doing that over large areas, you have to upgrade it first. But we're definitely not at the point where total solar PV output would outdo momentary nation-wide grid power consumption, anywhere in the world.

Re:This is disputed (2, Interesting)

thaylin (555395) | about 10 months ago | (#44901761)

Except that when you get the fuel you can use it for a long time to generate massive amounts of power. You can even reenrich it now so you dont have to replace it.

Re:This is disputed (4, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | about 10 months ago | (#44901791)

the mining and preparation of the nuclear fuel is quite carbon dirty. Not to mention the enormous costs of the structures and transportation of the fuel and whatever.

Yeah, coal plants don't have any of those problems.

Re:This is disputed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901805)

Mining and preparation you say. Well, how about the mining and preparation that goes into making solar cells? Have you considered that, not to mention the toxic waste created in the manufacturing process and the fact that they loose efficiency over time.

Re:This is disputed (3, Insightful)

gadget junkie (618542) | about 10 months ago | (#44901857)

I have read that nuclear is not really net clean. That the mining and preparation of the nuclear fuel is quite carbon dirty. Not to mention the enormous costs of the structures and transportation of the fuel and whatever. The amount of money we have spent on Nuclear was a waste compared to much greater advances we could have made in solar to achieve the same output.

Clean or not, in solar Vs. Nuclear one big problem remains, which has conveniently left out of every economic equation: who pays for continuous availability? if any solar plant had to contract as baseline, i.e. find and/or build conventional plants to meet output at night or in bad weather, they'd be up brown creek without a paddle. After all, conventional plants have to state to the grid output and availability at the auction.

Re:This is disputed (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 10 months ago | (#44901927)

That the mining and preparation of the nuclear fuel is quite carbon dirty.

So you blame the comparative cleanness of nuclear energy being spoiled by filthy fossil fuel inputs into the energy sector - on nuclear energy, and not on those fossil fuels? How does that work?

Re:This is disputed (4, Insightful)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about 10 months ago | (#44901939)

The research that concluded that was based on theoretical calculations.

Empirical data paints quite a different picture. Here's a basic sanity check for you: if it took prohibitively huge amounts of diesel fuel to mine uranium the nuclear plant could not afford to buy uranium and stay competitive with oil-fired plants.

Except Nuclear is not the best solution (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901693)

Except Nuclear is not the best solution if you're talking about the least toxic.

And where the fuck do you keep getting this idea that Renewable is not there yet to support the people? Only to the extent that NO power generation is there to support the people is that true.

We don't have enough installed capacity of renewable power to support the people. We don't have enough gas installed capacity to support the people. We don't have enough coal, nuclear, gerbil or alien technology installed capacity to support the people.

There is, however, ABSOLUTELY NO REASON why enough renewables to support the people WITH CURRENT TECHNOLOGY is not possible.

We have to built it.

Which ignorant dickheads yelling "Renewables can't suppor us!!!" are trying to stop happening.

Re:Except Nuclear is not the best solution (2)

thaylin (555395) | about 10 months ago | (#44901755)

Also under what metric do you consider nuclear more toxic than carbon based fuels? When you take into account all the snasties it makes carbon way more toxic

Even in renweables there are many toxics that make it not so nice.

And there IS a reason, the tech is not there to support it without the cost that makes it completely prohibitive and the space to to support the entire populace.

Re:Except Nuclear is not the best solution (3, Insightful)

johnjaydk (584895) | about 10 months ago | (#44901889)

It's not common knowledge but most coal contains small amounts of radioactive material. When the coal is burned, this is either released into the atmosphere or put in some glorified dump along with the rest of the ashes.

I say coal fired plants are plenty radioactive and not nearly as conscientious about handling as the nuclear guys.

Lets not beat around the bush. The alternative to nuclear power is coal and coal fired plants are shooting up like mushrooms all over the world.

Re:Except Nuclear is not the best solution (1)

thaylin (555395) | about 10 months ago | (#44902055)

not sure if you are disagreeing with me or not.

Re:Shift (3, Insightful)

robthebloke (1308483) | about 10 months ago | (#44901705)

Less toxic indeed [youtube.com] . I'd personally prefer more renewables, combined with increases in energy efficiency, over nuclear any day. We've already had one windscale [youtube.com] here in the UK, I'd prefer to not increase the chances of another. If accidents can be caused by nothing more than a stuck valve [youtube.com] , human error [youtube.com] , or a natural disaster; then I'd prefer to be a NIMBY in this case.....

Re:Shift (2)

ssam (2723487) | about 10 months ago | (#44901817)

Even with massive efficiency improvements we need to at least double electricity production, as we need to electrify transport and heating in order to stop emitting CO2. ( And that's from an environment group http://zerocarbonbritain.com/ [zerocarbonbritain.com] )

The USA may have a low enough population density for renewables to work, but not europe or the far east. Don't be fooled by the 'will provide electricity for N homes', as household electricity is just a fraction of the problem.

Re:Shift (1, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 10 months ago | (#44902073)

You're arguing in 2013 with an accident from *1957*? That's like arguing against modern air traffic with the accidents of early bi-planes.

Tell that to the people of Fukushima (3, Insightful)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about 10 months ago | (#44901803)

Tell that to the people of Fukushima, Chernobyl or Sellafield, or several other sites. In theory, it's cleaner, but those pesky humans keep messing up the "near perfect" statistics. I'm not saying wind or carbon is the solution, but Nuclear has proven to be a lot less safe and clean than the statistics promised so far.

Re:Tell that to the people of Fukushima (2)

thaylin (555395) | about 10 months ago | (#44902077)

yes, I will tell it to people who are idiots in keeping their plant operations. Would you also like me to tell New Orleans that it is OK to live on a river or near an ocean?

Re:Shift (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901965)

"Nuclear is the most bestest solution overall"

And I'm supposed to believe you because?

Re:Shift (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44902021)

Don't lump renewables all together. Hydro is quite viable (full disclosure: Yes I am an Electrical Management System analyst with a power company). We've been using hydro electric power for years. It's safe, efficient, and has minimal enviornmental impact. Yes the turbines do destroy a few fish, but we replentish those fish more than 10 fold. In the summer time here there are some days that hydro handles most of our load. We do have a couple of nat gas plants, and a coal plant that is shared with other utilities.

Wind is the greatest rip off that's ever been pushed on the American people. On the hottest days it's the most still. So when load is highest the wind does us no good at all. On the more mild days when we don't really need it we're forced to purchase wind generation at a premium. Federal regulations have created a really sweet deal for wind developers. They give government grants (read: tax payer money) to develop these things, they subsidize the maintenance, and they force the power companies to buy the generation. The only problem is that wind is the most expensive form of generation. Coal costs ~$.05 / kWh where wind is ~$.55, nuclear is the cheapest option even taking into consideration the increase in security requirements, long term storage of waste, and decommitioning fund. So now in addition to paying for the wind farms to be built and maintained you as a tax payer and electrical consumer are paying an increased cost for electricity (yeah when it costs us more - we don't eat that - we pass it on).

Solar and wind are good for some things if you have a means to store the energy on an individual basis. If you can build your own system to reduce the power you have to purchase it is a good thing environmentally and it's more cost effective than when done by governments and corporations. The problem is that most of the packages I've seen are still more expensive over the long term. When you talk about maintenance and initial cost that the cheapest option is still to purchase power from the power company. A system that costs $10k will likely last about 10 years, the batteries could need to be replaced as often as every two years. Those batteries also have an environmental impact when you dispose of them. Overall it's just not worth it financially, but if you are super concerned about the environment then maybe it's a good way to go.

Re:Shift (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | about 10 months ago | (#44902113)

There is a perfectly good renewable source that environmentalists hate, hydro. Unfortunately it blocks fish's migratory paths otherwise clean renewable energy would be abundant and readily available. Hydro in the US could easily account for 30% of the US electricity consumption it currently accounts for 6%, 1/3 of fossil fuel electricity production could be halted for a cleaner and cheaper energy source but it's not utilized so fish can can go lay eggs up stream.

Re:Shift (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44902119)

Everything is dirty. Life is dirty. You got to get dirty to live. Hell, 'gettin' dirty' is how life is created. The trick is to balance cleanliness and dirtiness, life and death - preferably with a bias towards cleanliness and life. A bias towards dirty is definitely bad but a bias against dirty is just as bad.

If we were to all come clean, we'd all have to admit to being dirty.

I can't help but imagine that the politicians responsible for having the nuclear plant closed charted that course of action as a means to win favor with the masses or get re-elected.

A good shepherd does not lead sheep where they want to go; he leads them to the better pastures - even when he knows they will crucify him for it.

Uh oh! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901359)

Better not shut down Fukushima!

Re:Uh oh! (4, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 10 months ago | (#44901527)

I know you're being sarcastic, but it's not just nuclear power plants that generate revenues. Where I live, there's a large wind farm that pays millions a year through council and business taxes: they make my small sleepy town mega-rich and pose zero threat to the environment, save for a few birds that think they can fly through the spinning blades now and then.

Re:Uh oh! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901615)

ignore the whole "politicians having money to burn " is very different than "people having stable jobs".

Re:Uh oh! (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 10 months ago | (#44901701)

You could argue that politicians can only keep burning money as long as the economy is fairly stable. Tax money has to come from somewhere.

Re:Uh oh! (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | about 10 months ago | (#44901733)

But one of the issues mentioned in TFA was increases in taxes to cover the lost tax revenue from the plant.

Yes, not as many people would be employed by a Wind Farm of equal capacity to a lost Nuclear Power Plant, but the revenue would still benefit the local community by reducing the individual tax burdens.

Re:Uh oh! (5, Interesting)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 10 months ago | (#44901623)

We've had wind farms erected on some of the windier ridges near my hometown. One of the coolest things about them is that you can drive right up to the windmills and check them out. A majority of them are erected on farmland, and the farmers are paid about $3000/yr per windmill on their property... even if it's on land that was otherwise unused (such as very rocky soil or old pastures no longer in use). Some people complain that they make the skyline ugly, but most people I've talked to think they make rather serene vistas along the tops of the valleys.

Re:Uh oh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901753)

You said "erected". Huh huh huh

Re:Uh oh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901895)

Where i live the NIMBY people protest and file legal complaints to prevent wind-farms. Then they go home turn on their lights and watch TV knowing the eveil wind farms are not close to them.

Re:Uh oh! (3, Interesting)

gadget junkie (618542) | about 10 months ago | (#44901929)

I know you're being sarcastic, but it's not just nuclear power plants that generate revenues. Where I live, there's a large wind farm that pays millions a year of other taxpayers' money through council and business taxes: they make my small sleepy town mega-rich and pose zero threat to the environment, save for a few birds that think they can fly through the spinning blades now and then.

There, fixed it for you. and recall that the prim promoters of wind and solar brush the necessity of backup, on-call generation under the taxpayer's carpet as well.

Do not think that I am a dr. Strangelove or something: I am just trained in analysing economic alternatives where my money and livelihood are on the table, and there's no taxpayer whom I can pass the buck to. I'd love to see a comprehensive, "all side effects in" study of such things, but all are more or less ass backwards things:" Since renewable energy is good per se, we'll subsidise it to the tune of [insert number of billion Euros here] each year, and therefore it achieves grid parity".

Re:Uh oh! (4, Informative)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 10 months ago | (#44901605)

I know you were being facetious, but the Japanese governments opposition to avoid unemployment at all costs may have factored into their decision not to shut down Fukushima earlier. Fukushima was actually due to be decommissioned in March 2011, but was granted a large extension in January/February. Part of what may have caused the government to rubber stamp the extension was the fact that allowing the plant to shut down would have resulted in a lot of well-paying jobs being lost.

The fact that the plant is in Fukushima probably exacerbated that fact. The Japanese political system is set up sort of like the US system in that the rural prefectures have a disproportionate amount of influence in the Diet. Couple that with the fact that rural Japan has been bleeding population(Fukushima lost 3% of its population between 2005 and 2010, keep in mind the earthquake was in 2011...) and you can see why there was a lot of pressure to keep good jobs in Fukushima. Unfortunately for Fukushima the pressure to keep jobs there had a lot of unfortunate circumstances, and although there aren't firm numbers to be had yet, my guess is the flight of people from Fukushima to elsewhere is only going to increase.

*Yes I am aware that even if the extension to run the plant had not been granted there still would have been a calamity at Fukushima. But it may not have been as bad, the CEO of Tepco initially did not want to dump seawater on the reactors because he thought he could save them. If you dump seawater on them there is no way they can ever be used again. Had the plant already been in the process of shutdown, there may not have been nearly as many hydrogen explosions at the plant.

The Issue With Small Town Mindset (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901383)

The real issue isn't with Maine Yankee leaving...it's that the members the town thought it would be around forever.

The problem they are experiencing is the same one that most small towns (and some big ones) experience when they tie all their hopes and dreams on one industry instead of using tax revenues generated from that industry to help pull additional industries into their city.

When is it going to happen to San Francisco? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901503)

At some point, this is going to happen to San Francisco, and the entire so-called Silicon Valley.

While the economy of this region was once diversified, ranging from professional services to software development to computer hardware development to heavy industry, we've seen much of that flee over the years.

These days, the companies and people that remain are nothing compared to the giants of days gone by. They are strangers walking through the ruins of what was once a great civilization. They try to imitate what they see, but they lack the inherent essence of what The Valley was in its heyday.

Some people call it economic stagnation; I prefer to call it rampant hipsterism. That which mattered has been replaced by that which is superficial. Where we once had leaders and innovators, now we have manchildren who wear tight jeans, large glasses, and act with the maturity of toddlers.

When Bill Hewlett was in the room, everyone listened to him, even when he wasn't saying anything. But today, we get to hear self-entitled young men prance around in fedoras, taking photos of everything while subsequently going on about social media and Web 2.0 and Ruby-on-Rails.

If it can happen in Maine, I think it can surely happen in California. The parallels between the two are astounding.

Re:When is it going to happen to San Francisco? (3, Insightful)

Virtucon (127420) | about 10 months ago | (#44901883)

If it can happen in Maine, I think it can surely happen in California

It can happen anywhere and it can happen for all the wrong reasons, especially in California because what people don't realize is that business will grow and prosper where it's welcome. Last year California lost 5.2% of its businesses [businessweek.com] and while the experts can't agree on a clear "why," I think that California has become more anti-business, anti-growth over the past few decades. I was born and raised in So. Cal and lived out there through the end of the 80s but even then it was still growing. Sure the recent recession has hit everybody but the decline in California is inevitable; Overpriced housing such as in Orange County [patch.com] means that even middle class wage earners have a very hard time of living there, which also helps to drive up the costs of labor. [doctorhousingbubble.com] You can blame speculation on most of that but without mass transit and massive urban sprawl it creates huge amounts of gridlock. [time.com] Add to it the anti-business legislation that's been passed and you have a perfect storm brewing over over-inflated housing prices, employees who can't get to work because of long commutes and an anti-business attitude [calchamber.com] and ranking highest in the nation on taxation in most categories [caltax.org] , that makes California downright a sucky place to make a living and conduct business. As they say "it's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there."

What a surprise (4, Insightful)

Racemaniac (1099281) | about 10 months ago | (#44901389)

A small town loses a lot when the big business that was there has left.

Not quite sure why it's worth an article, or why it matters that it was a nuclear power plant though.

Re:What a surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901457)

It'll be even worse now with the fallout from a nuclear plant turning everyone into mutants. Oh wait, the article doesn't say anything about nuclear fallout. Damn click bait!

Re:What a surprise (2)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 10 months ago | (#44901741)

It'll be even worse now with the fallout from a nuclear plant turning everyone into mutants. Oh wait, the article doesn't say anything about nuclear fallout. Damn click bait!

Yeah, I noticed that too- I would have said much the same thing if you hadn't already.

The only thing I'd say is that I think it was more a badly-thought out attempt to make a clever headline than an intentional effort to mislead. "Fallout" obviously has the nuclear meaning as well as a more general, metaphorical usage. In this case use of the term "fall-out" for the social after-effects of the closure ties in with the nuclear associations of the word and the fact it was a *nuclear* power plant.

Except that it doesn't work at all, because "fallout" doesn't apply to nuclear *power plants* unless there's been a serious accident. Still, I'd put it down to a not-as-clever-as-they-think bit of word association rather than intent to mislead.

Re:What a surprise (2)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 10 months ago | (#44901519)

Yeah, they could just as well have written about the next village where the fish factory closed. Or about the boom times in tiny villages in North Dakota where they've found oil.

Re:What a surprise (5, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | about 10 months ago | (#44901583)

Yes, it's called a "company" town, and it happens wherever there is a single major employer. Often the employer is the reason the town exists as more than a little village in the first place, so it's not at all clear how one would expect it to exist unchanged when the employer leaves. It happens to big towns, too... Remove Disney from Orlando and see if anyone wants to hit the center of Florida in the middle of the summer.

Re:What a surprise (4, Informative)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 10 months ago | (#44901859)

It happens to big towns, too... Remove Disney from Orlando and see if anyone wants to hit the center of Florida in the middle of the summer.

Or if you want to see an example that actually happened, look at Flint MI without General Motors, which went from a prosperous manufacturing center of about 200,000 people to a bankrupt city half the size with the highest crime rate in America.

Re:What a surprise (3, Funny)

MightyYar (622222) | about 10 months ago | (#44901959)

That's just liberal propaganda from Michael Moore. Flint was killed by the union.

(Would I make a good troll?) :)

Re:What a surprise (1)

sycodon (149926) | about 10 months ago | (#44902013)

For that to be a complete analogy you'd have to have national organizations lobbying the federal government to not license the fish factory, develop an entire movement opposed to fish factories, and then have the government regulate the fish factory to the point of insolvency.

Re:What a surprise (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#44901611)

Nuclear plants are rather trickier than some industries to redevelop (the fuel casks are stuck in regulatory limbo, the rest of the plant is just a massive structure, much of it radioactive enough to reduce the otherwise significant scrap value and require special procedures, built durable enough that it'll be expensive to demolish) which increases the odds that Maine Yankee HQ will do their best to classify the site as some sort of minimally-operational status in perpetuity, because hiring a couple of guards to wander around and punch the clock is cheaper than fully pulling out, leaving the town with a big derelict structure.

They are hardly alone in that, though. All kinds of industrial processes (especially anything inherited from the good old days when Men Were Men, Cigarettes were a health food, and PCBs were a Miracle of Science), even if their buildings are cheaper to tear down, leave the underlying site in lousy enough shape that it's usually cheaper just to say 'eh, fuck 'em' and choose a greenfield location somewhere else. Even something as minor as a gas station can be Wacky Remediation Fun Time if their storage tank leaked before they went under or moved.

(The only other aspect, though the article is polite, or feckless, enough to ignore it, is that nuclear plants operate under an NRC license, which is of limited duration unless renewed, which requires a variety of testing steps, so their demise is probably rather more predictable than the usual '$FOOCORP moves to China to save 10 cents per widget' story. If your town is basically fucked without its resident nuclear reactor, you really want your town leadership to be well informed(or doing their best to batter down the doors and demand to be made aware) of exactly where in the lifecycle the reactor is, whether HQ is looking for a renewal, whether there are issues that would scuttle that, etc. Predicting a 'Haha, Outsourcing Surprise!' event is relatively challenging. Predicting whether or not a reactor will get recertified or mothballed may not be trivial; but it's a much better defined problem. My guess is that there's a really ugly backstory there. Either the town ignoring the problem to bask in the present, the operator stonewalling/flimflamming the town until it was time to give them the shaft, some of both, some other flavor I'm not thinking of; but that would be the one major wrinkle distinguishing a reactor from any other 'industrial site not easy to remediate'.)

Re:What a surprise (1)

internerdj (1319281) | about 10 months ago | (#44901655)

There is to this day a great fear over having a nuclear plant nearby for some. They constantly seek to block new plants and close existing ones. Except this points out, just because you close the plant doesn't mean it is gone and you could tank your local economy.

Re:What a surprise (1, Troll)

fermion (181285) | about 10 months ago | (#44901713)

I am sure that Virginia is still quite unhappy that it's slaves were freed. I know is Texas and California, on a while, are are quite unhappy that they have to comply with clean air regulation that in both states dramatically increase the cost of energy. I am quite unhappy that I cannot have a still in my backyard, and I am sure many of my neighbors would to like to cook meth.

We'll never have a sane debate about nuclear power (5, Insightful)

johnjaydk (584895) | about 10 months ago | (#44901391)

On one side we have a lot of people talking technology and facts about something that few people understand and can't observe.

On the other we have people who are afraid, on a gut level, about something they don't understand and a deep mistrust towards the technical people. The technical people consider these guys stupid and irrational.

A sane dialogue is a complete nonstarter. They can't even agree about what's sane.

Re:We'll never have a sane debate about nuclear po (2)

somersault (912633) | about 10 months ago | (#44901475)

Then there are those of us that do understand, and have a moderate distrust in human ability to foresee everything, and to do adequate safety checks, etc.

Personally, I think nuclear power is A Good Thing. From what has happened so far in the world though, it looks like we need to implement more modern reactor designs to avoid any more radiation leaks from human negligence, or the occasional natural disaster.

Re:We'll never have a sane debate about nuclear po (1)

The WTF Department (3137159) | about 10 months ago | (#44901487)

This is a problem that's more widespread than you'd think. What's the solution? Pushing ahead against the mass of ignorance that's penetrated every facet of society?

and then the human factor... (4, Insightful)

spectrokid (660550) | about 10 months ago | (#44901619)

Safe nuclear power is not a technical problem. It is a political problem. In Fukushima, the authorities knew the generators were crap. So the debate gets a third angle: do you trust the engineers? Well maybe. But do you trust the politicians?

Re:We'll never have a sane debate about nuclear po (2)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 10 months ago | (#44901681)

The same problem applies in all activism scenarios, whether we're discussing nuclear power, fracking, education, human rights, politics or war.

On the one side, you have all the people who cry for an absolute stop to the activity in question, and the other side will be pushing for the absolute requirement to do whatever it is. The two extremes dominate the debate, and anyone not in an extreme is derided as not being dedicated to the particular cause. Both sides are full of PhD-holding experts in tangentially-related fields, who are certain that some particular report from several years ago is the definitive truth of the matter - and anyone unfamiliar with that particular work isn't qualified to hold an opinion.

Of course, since neither side will entertain the other's perspective, they certainly don't bother comparing notes or discussing compromises. Whenever the other side does attempt any concession, it's just an obvious ruse, since the other side is so much more argumentative and outright evil. The only solution is to fight, with all our power and budget, to stir up grassroots support for our cause, and resist all the opposition's efforts to infiltrate and undermine our endeavor.

Re:We'll never have a sane debate about nuclear po (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#44901687)

I suspect that there's at least one other variable: There is a large universe of things that the techies say are safe and doable, if done according to their advice. However, by the time the plan actually gets executed, it is fairly common to discover that... certain liberties were taken... (in fairness to the techies, often against their advice) in some of the expensive-and-boring-safety-features parts of the plan. This leads to a rather smaller universe of things that techies say are safe and doable and which are implemented safely in practice.

Anybody who actually thinks that techies don't know stuff about the world, and science is, like, a social construct, man! is probably a fool.

Anyone who is strongly suspicious that, while the techies do indeed have the knowing and the doing of many things, they may not have the good of the locals at heart (never mind the bean counters and suits at HQ), is just a reasonable student of history.

A pure irrational fear of technology is one thing. The agreement that, yes, technology is powerful; but proposals involving the deployment of power are... not history's most glorious chapter... is much harder to argue with.

Re:We'll never have a sane debate about nuclear po (2)

jonnyj (1011131) | about 10 months ago | (#44901707)

I'm a strong supporter of nuclear power, but I believe that the 'stupid and irrational' people actually bring insights into important issues that are often overlooked by technical folk. And this article raises thought-provoking issues that I've never heard acknowledged in the media by any nuclear expert.

Any conceivable nuclear safety regime requires plant employees to act with honesty, integrity and procedural rigour. But what happens to honesty and integrity when the future economic prosperity of your family, friends and community depend on the answer? You will be under huge internal, personal pressure to downplay risks, underestimate costs, cut corners to save money, cover up poor practice, lie to inspectors and rebut any conceivable negative news item.

Technologists are human. No matter how rational they appear, the answers they provide us with are always subject to considerable personal and emotional bias and must be regarded with an appropriate level of scepticism.

Re:We'll never have a sane debate about nuclear po (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901795)

Did you just get +4 for a "pro-nuke people are objective bastions of scientific truth, while anti-nukers are irrational and ignorant" strawman?

Because the carnival of lies and corruption unfolding at Fukushima these past two years does not jive with that narrative.

Re:We'll never have a sane debate about nuclear po (1)

geekymachoman (1261484) | about 10 months ago | (#44901891)

I'm a technical guy from age ... hm. 5 i think. Been in tech business long time, started professionally when i was 16. Like..work in a IT company doing coding and server management. 28 now.

I'm not hating on nuclear tech. I'm hating on fukushima scenarios and then the world that is totally apathetic towards such scenarios. If the price to pay is to pollute this planet (our home btw) even further and more severe, then yeah.. we need to double think what and how we' doing stuff. Even if there's a remote chance of that happening. It's not about being irrational, it's about "hey... sh.t already happened, and we don''t know how to deal with it properly".

When we learn how to contain it (and i don't mean pouring tons of radioactive water a day into ocean for 20 years or whatever as a proper method of containment) then sure. You can build a nuclear plant in every city and village as far as I'm concerned.

We reached a point in our existence when we need to think how we use our knowledge and tech, not just blindly push forward without thinking about long term consequences. 200 years ago there was nothing we could do to harm our habitat. This is the first time in our existence (known) that we can seriously affect "life" in general, long term.

And you think this is a new phenomenon?! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901395)

Settlements come and settlements go. That is the nature of the settlement! This has been the nature of settlement since the very beginning.

It does not matter if it is primitive people sleeping around a fire in tents, or a large city of antiquity, or an American town of today. Changing times bring changing economies which bring changes to where people reside.

So why the surprise? Why the dumbfounding? When situations change, people must change. They must move. They must adapt. It is the way of the world; the way it has always been.

Idiots (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901401)

So, idiots get scared of "nukular powurr" and close down an electricity factory using the one tech that's actually good at that, and then whine that they're getting poorer? "Let's kill the golden goose just to watch its carcass rot" much?

Radioactive assault bullets zomg! (0)

The WTF Department (3137159) | about 10 months ago | (#44901411)

Awesomesauce. So now we're associating "assault rifles" with nuclear waste. Next week we'll have stories about the need to ban radioactive bullets... (In before DU rounds already exist)

Re:Radioactive assault bullets zomg! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901455)

Protip: you don't guard nuclear waste isn't done with rubber bands and pea shooters when your country is crawling with assault rifle-armed nutters.

Well shock horror (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901419)

This could be said of any large scale employer leaving a small town, nothing specific to Nucular power.

Out of interest, did the town decide to close down the plant, or was it fundamentally unprofitable?

Dangers of being the company town... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#44901421)

It sounds like the (sadly not atypical) story of what happens to a company town when the company leaves, more or less regardless of the flavor of company.

The fact that a bunch of nuclear waste casks prevent any redevelopment of that part of the site certainly doesn't help (though, nuclear plants are one of the flavors of facility that are wildly expensive to shut down permanently even if they could get rid of the casks).

They had 17 years (3, Insightful)

Lemental (719730) | about 10 months ago | (#44901425)

They had 17 years to move out. I don't fault the plant closing, If you have that much lead time, I would have gotten out.

Re:They had 17 years (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901833)

"anyone can drop everything and relocate at any time"

Who the fuck are they going to sell that house they still owe half a mortgage on to, if everyone is moving out and nobody is moving in?

Nothing to see here (1)

masonc (125950) | about 10 months ago | (#44901439)

This is a story about a facility closing and the town losing jobs, this is not a story that supports Nuclear. If you are want to build nuclear plants to create jobs, the tail is wagging the dog. Supposing, just supposing, the plant had an accident and all those people had to evacuate. Do you think they would have been sad to see it close? Now that would have been a nuclear story.

Bad choice of words (3, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | about 10 months ago | (#44901467)

the fallout from a nuclear plant closing

Maybe the fallout will cause a mutation in the town's economy.Together with the economic downturn it could be a toxic combination, resulting in an civic apocalypse.

Re:Bad choice of words (1)

Enry (630) | about 10 months ago | (#44901577)

That's a pretty radical statement. Remember that this is still a gray area.

Sievert.

Re:Bad choice of words (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 10 months ago | (#44901659)

As opposed to the glowing green area associated with most nuke plants.

Re:Bad choice of words (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 10 months ago | (#44901697)

That's a pretty radical statement. Remember that this is still a gray area.

Sievert.

That's clever. If I hadn't commented I'd mod you up!

Bad headline (2)

halexists (2587109) | about 10 months ago | (#44901517)

I think of "regret" as something you feel over an action you took (direct or indirect). But this town didn't act to close the plant; in fact the residents were quite happy with the economic boom that came with its operation. So, "Its Nuclear Plant Closed, Maine Town Is Full of Sadness," perhaps?

Contrary to the other posts in this thread... (5, Interesting)

tlambert (566799) | about 10 months ago | (#44901525)

Contrary to the other posts in this thread...

It's doubtful that the activists who caused the closure actually live in the town; they are likely from out of area, and just uniformly against nuclear power for the sake of being against nuclear power.

From the article, it looks like there isn't a NIMBY in town, and that the town is actually filled with PIMBY's ("Please In My Back Yard").

Re:Contrary to the other posts in this thread... (5, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | about 10 months ago | (#44901569)

It's doubtful that the activists who caused the closure actually live in the town; they are likely from out of area, and just uniformly against nuclear power for the sake of being against nuclear power.

From TFA

But the plant faced serious allegations of safety violations and falsifying records around the time it was closed, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Agency investigators found Maine Yankee relied on inadequate computer analyses to demonstrate the adequacy of its emergency core cooling system; “willfully provided inaccurate information” to the NRC about its ability to vent steam during an accident; and provided falsified records of safety-related equipment.

Yeah .. damn commie hippie activists. Causing a proud 'Merkin company to close down.

Re:Contrary to the other posts in this thread... (4, Informative)

tlambert (566799) | about 10 months ago | (#44901773)

From TFA

But the plant faced serious allegations of safety violations and falsifying records around the time it was closed, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Well, yes, and I could allege you eat babies. That doesn't make it true. It would cost you a lot of money to prove otherwise, however. One of the common tactics to stall the construction of a nuclear power plant is to rely on the AEC forcing multiple redesigns during the construction process. Before anything is built at all, and then after each redesign, you demand an environmental impact statement, in case the answer is different, and there's another two years. Believe me, these groups are not averse to implementing what in Congress would be called "filibustering" in order to delay plants and increase their costs as much as possible to prevent them being built.

Agency investigators found Maine Yankee relied on inadequate computer analyses to demonstrate the adequacy of its emergency core cooling system; “willfully provided inaccurate information” to the NRC about its ability to vent steam during an accident; and provided falsified records of safety-related equipment.

There are enough conflicting regulations, and enough changes in regulations, that if you measured an office building built 5 years ago in California against current "earthquake ready" standards, you would find some "violations" where it would meet current code, were it to have been constructed that way last week. The important point to consider is that despite this, not one operational accident or failure as a result of these supposed issues.

Re:Contrary to the other posts in this thread... (3, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | about 10 months ago | (#44901937)

Just because you say

The important point to consider is that despite this, not one operational accident or failure as a result of these supposed issues.

doesn't mean that an accident or failure cannot occur.
 
And if an accident does occur, then you are relying on safety systems to mitigate the effects. But when statements like willfully provided inaccurate information; and provided falsified records of safety-related equipment. get bandied about, you cannot trust in the ability of those safety systems to mitigate to the expected level of operation. At that point it is either fix it or shut down. In this case the operators chose to shut down.
 
This has nothing to do with complex regulations. The operators were simply caught out being negligent.

Re:Contrary to the other posts in this thread... (0)

Enry (630) | about 10 months ago | (#44901589)

The 'backyard' for a nukulur disaster is in the hundreds of miles.

Re:Contrary to the other posts in this thread... (3, Informative)

tlambert (566799) | about 10 months ago | (#44901709)

The 'backyard' for a nukulur disaster is in the hundreds of miles.

Three Mile Island had a full core meltdown, and it basically didn't bother anyone. It seems the containment vessels contained things, just like they were designed to do. So Apparently in the TMI case, the "backyard" was limited to "inside the containment vessel". That's a "backyard" I can live with.

Re:Contrary to the other posts in this thread... (1)

Enry (630) | about 10 months ago | (#44902035)

I realize the US reactors are different than other models (and there are other designs that are even safer), but there are two pretty large areas on this planet that will be uninhabitable for some time due to contamination from nuclear plants.

Agreed on the activists (2, Insightful)

The Tyro (247333) | about 10 months ago | (#44901771)

They killed the goose that layed the golden eggs.

The uber-green and anti-nuke activists likely don't live there, and probably consider these folks collateral damage in their larger fight. Ideally, such activists would be up-front about the economic costs of some of their stands. Even beyond this now-impoverished small town, growing economies need affordable energy; that's just an economic fact. High energy costs reverberate through the entire supply chain, and raise the costs of virtually every good-and-service that normal people use.

Everybody wants clean air and water, but some green initiatives come with a serious price-tag.

Re:Contrary to the other posts in this thread... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901887)

The NIMBYs can be bad, but in some cases they don't hold a candle to the eco fundamentalists. A few years back a group was trying to build a wind farm in my area. Initially I think quite a few residents supported it, but (at least the rumor is) a bunch of outside groups came in and started handing out flyers, holding lectures and setting up websites informing residents about the "dangers" of being around wind turbines. I was told that on the days the townships involved were holding town meetings about the turbines almost half of the license plates in the parking lot were not even from our state. In the end I don't think they were able to completely outlaw them, but they were able to put so many "common sense" restrictions on them that they would have had to spin gold instead of electricity to have been economically viable.

Re:Contrary to the other posts in this thread... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901917)

Activists had nothing to do with the closure. The plant had exceeded it's initial planned lifespan and had serious safety problems, to the extent that it was too expensive to retrofit.

Source: My father was an engineer at the plant.

How is this different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901555)

Seriously, it's a FISHING town. Fishing towns everywhere have suffered, not to mention the whole American economy and how many towns are going belly up. Stop trying to use their plight as defense for nuclear power.

huge tax increases (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901565)

LOL democrats. The only thing they love better than oppressive taxes is being racist while doing it.

I grew up in a one-industry town (4, Insightful)

hessian (467078) | about 10 months ago | (#44901579)

The modern time is an abomination because economics runs our lives.

Since that's the case, it's prudent to think economically and to never rely on only a couple industries in a town.

If your employment opportunities are (1) nuclear plant or (2) "fishing, I guess" then you're in for a rough ride if either of those shits the bed.

And since economies are both cyclic and random, expect that to happen.

Re:I grew up in a one-industry town (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 10 months ago | (#44901983)

And it's worth pointing out that fishing and lobstering is also in trouble in Maine, because fishing and lobster stocks got really depleted about 15 years ago. So that leaves lumber, paper, farming (particularly blueberries, apples, eggs, and potatoes), maple syrup, shipbuilding, and tourism as your options for work.

That's how they control people (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901633)

What they do is make people dependent, once they make people addictive, people never get out of it without such pain.
You can see it anywhere, nuclear plants, US bases, waste disposal plants...

Don't put all of your eggs in one basket. (3, Informative)

kodabmx (2473710) | about 10 months ago | (#44901641)

""I'll take a little radiation if I can get a job" - Working people have been fu&*ed over for so long in this country, those are the kinds of decisions people are forced to make" George Carlin - Jammin' in New York.

The plant didn't close because of "ignorance" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901745)

I'm already seeing lots of posts about how "ignorant environmentalists" caused the plant to close. From the article:

"Officials at the plant, which is owned by a consortium of utility companies in New England, blamed the difficult economics of running the plant, which had maintenance issues and required expensive work"

And:

"But the plant faced serious allegations of safety violations and falsifying records around the time it was closed, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Agency investigators found Maine Yankee relied on inadequate computer analyses to demonstrate the adequacy of its emergency core cooling system; “willfully provided inaccurate information” to the NRC about its ability to vent steam during an accident; and provided falsified records of safety-related equipment.

“Many of these violations and underlying causes were longstanding and appeared to be caused by ineffective engineering analyses,” NRC officials wrote to Maine Yankee shortly after the plant closed.

They added that Maine Yankee “was a facility in which pressure to be a low-cost performer led to practices which over-relied on judgment, discouraged problem reporting, and accepted low standards of performance.”"

I am a strong proponent of nuclear energy. However, the maintenance requirements and potential for catastrophe make it impossible to run a nuclear plant safely and successfully as a for-profit business. As long as we rely on capitalism to provide our energy needs, nuclear will never be successful.

Re:The plant didn't close because of "ignorance" (1)

Bigby (659157) | about 10 months ago | (#44901869)

The costs to fix those issues should be relatively low. After a nuclear power plant is built, operating costs are generally pretty low. If you consider the capital investment a "sunken cost", there is no economic reason to close a nuclear plant. If regulatory reasons caused it, I would think the cost of fixing those issues would be insignificant to the "profitability" of not laying waste to the massive capital investment.

it's the economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44901799)

The economics of nuclear power are extremely poor. They are price takers, since they cannot power down immediately. And the costs of build these plants are gigantic because they are so big, and take a long time to build (that means you have to take out loans for years before power production starts) - that means tons of debt. There are also big costs when you decommission.

Now compare gas plants and wind. Wind farms, for example, you can start running nearly as soon as you put the first turbine up - the price of power isn't great, because it tends to be produced at night, when the price is low. But the operating costs are close to zero.

Gas isn't as quick to start as wind, and operating costs are higher (because you have to pay for gas). But you can produce whenever desired - i.e. when prices are high, you are producing, when low, you shut down. Moreover, gas is in a glut, so operating costs are really low now.

Everyone is focused on the controversy over nuclear - but the real reason these plants are being shut down and not built is economics.

Meanwhile in the Amazon Rainforest (2)

Flavianoep (1404029) | about 10 months ago | (#44901827)

people are afraid that they will not receive proper habitation or compensation when their traditional homes be flooded for the reservoir of hydroelectric plant. I concede that Maine Yankee may not have been clean, but usually people leaving near a nuclear power plant are at risk of reallocation due to a possible accident, while people living near to a area designed for a hydro plant are planned to reallocation (and almost nobody sees the tragedy in this situation). Nuclear power may not be clean, but everything else, even 'renewables', are dirty as well.

the fallout from a nuclear plant closing (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 10 months ago | (#44901997)

What an idiotic choice of words. It makes it sound like more anti-nuclear drivel about how radioactive waste is leaking from the closed plant or something. Or that every closed plant instantly becomes Chernobyl. This isn't sim city where plants auto-explode after 50 years.

Re:the fallout from a nuclear plant closing (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 10 months ago | (#44902023)

Also, who cares about 3700 people in a small town in Maine? (besides those people themselves) As if this is the worst economic or environmental consequence of the plant closing. What about the pollution caused by the coal plants they are firing up to replace this Nuclear plant?

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