July 27, 2019

Duckworth revives nuclear-waste plan that could provide Zion with more than $15 million in aid -- this time with a Republican ally

Source: Lake County News-Sun


The city of Zion could receive up to $15.3 million a year for five years under a plan to compensate communities impacted by stranded nuclear waste, a plan that U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth said now has support from across the aisle.

Despite the bipartisan support, the Hoffman Estates Democrat said in an interview it might still take two or three attempts to push the proposal through Congress.

Duckworth reintroduced the bill — called the Sensible, Timely Relief for America’s Nuclear Districts’ Economic Development, or STRANDED Act — Thursday with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Both Illinois and Maine have communities stuck with nuclear waste from the decommissioned nuclear power plants, according to a statement released this week.

“Communities like Zion have been forced to house this waste without consent or compensation for decades, despite the significant negative impact to their local economies,” Duckworth said in the statement.

Duckworth first introduced the legislation in October 2017 with U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Deerfield, after a visit to Zion. Neither a House nor Senate version of the bill made it out of committee in 2017.

If passed, the legislation would award economic impact grants to local governments to help offset the impacts of stranded waste — up to $15 per kilogram of spent nuclear fuel.

The proposed legislation would also establish a task force to identify existing funding that could benefit these communities and create a competitive grant program to help these communities find alternatives to nuclear facilities, generating sites and waste sites.

The economic impact grants could translate to as much $15.291 million per year for the city of Zion where the decommissioned nuclear power station on the lakefront houses more than 1,020 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel, according to the statement.

The communities would be eligible to receive the grant for five years, according to a Duckworth spokesman.

Duckworth said Thursday that the program isn’t indefinite, because the local storage isn’t a permanent solution. She added the grant program can be extended if need be, but she wants to encourage her colleagues to keep working on a long-term solution.

“Communities were promised quite a while ago that we would remove this nuclear waste,” Duckworth said in an interview. “We have not kept our promise, and these communities have really suffered as a result.”

The Zion plant is in the process of being demolished, but under current plans, the nuclear waste is to remain where it is.

Zion has struggled with a diminished property tax base since the power plant’s closure, leading to one of the highest property tax rates in the state and the highest in Lake County at 17.58 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Over the last several months, the Zion City Council has approved cuts, furloughed employees and raised fees and fines to cover a projected deficit, all with the hope that the situation will eventually improve.

By:  Emily K Coleman