Proposed bill allows cities to assess fees for nuclear waste storage

Melinda Bush
Melinda Bush | The Office of Melinda Bush
A proposal recently announced by state Sen. Melinda Bush would give city government officials in Illinois the authority to assess fees from companies that store nuclear waste in those municipalities.

“This is about responsibility, and giving power to our local communities, rather than companies who occupy their land for a few years and then leave it unusable,” Bush said.

The legislation came into being after leaders in Zion, Illinois -- which has struggled economically since the Zion Nuclear Power Station closed in 1998 -- called for action.

When the station closed, Zion lost about 55 percent of its property tax revenue, which had to be made up through regular tax increases.

David Knabel, the city of Zion's chief financial officer, said the closure of the station slashed Zion's property tax revenues by nearly $20 million -- and that even though that happened, the city was tasked with providing the same level of services to the surrounding community it always had.

“[A nuclear disposal impact fee] will help to offset the impact to the residents and businesses, and help to repair the damage done to the area,” Knabel said.

The Zion station is now owned by Exelon. Since the closure, it has been going through the arduous decommissioning process -- while at the same time being used as a storage space for the plant's nuclear fuel.

The station sits on lakefront land. Because of the environmental and security issues related to the plant, that land has been mostly unavailable for redevelopment -- which in turn has had a negative impact on Zion's tax revenues.

“Zion was a partner in welcoming a nuclear plant, but now that the plant and it’s jobs are gone, the utility company needs to be a good neighbor and remain a positive part of the community,” Bush said. “I want to give local governments the power to hold nuclear plants accountable for leaving something like that behind.”

Bush's legislation,  Senate Bill 544, will now proceed to the House.

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