Ottawa, Lake groups join to save nuke plants
Counties say closing the two sites would devastate economy.
Facing an eightmonth COLUMBUS — deadline to find a way to save Ohio’s two struggling nuclear power plants on Lake Erie’s shore or see them permanently decommissioned, community leaders from Ottawa and Lake counties have created a coalition in hopes of getting a reprieve.
“The stakes are simply too high not to,” Jamie Beier Grant, director of the Ottawa County Improvement Corporation, said Wednesday at the Ohio Statehouse.
The Ohio Clean Energy Jobs Alliance — consisting of representatives of local government, schools, economic development groups, skilled trade unions, and businesses — hope to jump-start legislative efforts to keep the lights on at Davis-Besse east of Toledo and the Perry Plant east of Cleveland.
The organization acknowledged the opposition that faced prior attempts and did not propose a specific solution this time. But it said that, whatever that answer is, it must be a statewide response.
If the plants close, “there will be a pretty massive recession going south from the lake to the core of Ohio,” said Lake County Commissioner Jerry Cirino.
The plants have been unable to effectively compete in this era of cheap and abundant natural gas.
First Energy Solutions, in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings, has made procedural moves toward decommissioning the two plants but it won’t reach the point of no return on the 40-yearold Davis-Besse until roughly June.
That’s when the power marketing subsidiary of Akron-based FirstEnergy must choose between making a long-term commitment to Davis-Besse by refueling the plant or proceeding with a shutdown and the storage of radioactive waste on site until it degrades. That entire process could take some 60 years.
“I’ve been told by enough physicists and engineers that once you start shutting down a nuclear power plant, there’s virtually no turning back,” Cirino said.
That would mean the nearly 700 people employed at Davis-Besse, the largest employer of Ottawa County, would lose their jobs — with the exception of those left behind for security and fuel-handling.
These groups tried unsuccessfully last year to convince state lawmakers to pass a law that would guarantee a market for power generated by the plants despite the fact that it is more expensive than natural gas. The bill would have allowed FES to collect about $300 million a year from customers even if they shopped elsewhere for their power.
These moves were generally opposed by competing electricity suppliers, manufacturers who count on affordable electricity rates, environmental groups that argue that the plants’ time is coming to an end, consumer advocates, and some lawmakers well beyond Lake Erie who questioned where their constituents might be asked to subsidize the plants.
FirstEnergy, which is undergoing bankruptcy, is moving to close the Davis-Besse nuclear plant.