Lessons learned from the shutdown of Maine Yankee - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Lessons learned from the shutdown of Maine Yankee

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WISCASSET, Maine -

It's been more than a decade since Maine Yankee stopped producing power along the East Coast, but the effect of the closure can still be felt, as "For Sale" signs dot the village roads of Wiscasset.

Selectwoman Pam Dunning arrived in town only a few years after the plant came online in 1972.

"Maine Yankee closing its doors was kind of two catastrophes in one," Dunning said.

She says when it went offline many workers left for other nuclear facilities, like Vermont Yankee. Prior to closing, the plant covered 96 percent of the town's then-$13 million budget; after, residential and business tax bills sky-rocketed.

Over the last decade and a half, Dunning's taxes climbed from $200 a year to $1,800.

"Each year progressively, the town and the schools have tried to cut budgets where they can," she said.

Maine Yankee spokespeople promised a greenfield for residents after cleanup, but the lack of a federal nuclear waste dump is preventing them from fulfilling that pledge.

"Once the power plant shut down, our goal is to ultimately go out of business. We can't go out of business until the federal government removes the spent nuclear fuel from the site," said Eric Howes, the public affairs director for Maine Yankee.

That means the plant continues to operate with a crew of about one-twentieth of the 600 staffers it once employed.

Decommissioning did temporarily lift numbers though.

"Clean in seven was what their motto was, and they pretty much got there," Ray Shadis said.

Shadis lives in neighboring Edgecomb, Maine, and began fighting to close Maine Yankee in the wake the Three Mile Island tragedy. He's become involved with Vermont's debate and says the state should push for a rapid decommission as happened in Maine, rather than the mothball approach currently planned.

"It's not perfect, but we were involved every step of the way," Shadis said.

"Maine Yankee really was all of Wiscasset's eggs right in one basket," Dunning said.

Dunning says she wants to continue recharging the tax base by focusing on small business to prevent the next boom from going bust. She says Vernon should consider the same.

Unlike in Vermont, all the tax money from Maine Yankee went to Wiscasset and wasn't shared with the state.

The old plant still pays about $700,000 a year to the town, which is about what Vermont Yankee currently pays in taxes to Vernon. There isn't likely to be a tax cliff, which should help the area stabilize when funding begins to dry up.

Related Stories:

Entergy announces plans to close Vermont Yankee

A look at Vt. Yankee's options for decommissioning

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