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Nuclear waste bill that could aid Zion awaiting Trump’s signature

Legislation to help communities such as Zion with stranded nuclear waste issues has passed both houses of Congress, and now awaits President Donald Trump ’s signature to become law, according to a statement released Friday by U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider.

The 10th District Democrat said the measure – included in H.R. 5895, the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2019 – would require a report by the Department of Energy on existing public and private resources and funding available for municipalities in which a nuclear power plant is decommissioned, in the process of decommissioning, or plans to shut down within 3 years.

“Communities like Zion have been saddled with storing our nation’s stranded nuclear waste while the federal government has failed to meet its legal obligation to find a permanent repository,” Schneider said in a statement. “They deserve compensation, and this new report is a step toward connecting these communities with critically needed federal assistance.”

In May, Schneider said, he introduced a legislative amendment requiring the Secretary of Energy to assemble a task force to work across all federal agencies to identify existing resources and funding opportunities that could assist communities with decommissioned plants where nuclear waste is being stored.

Last October, Schneider introduced the Sensible, Timely Relief for America’s Nuclear Districts’ Economic Development (STRANDED) Act with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois.

“I urge President Trump to sign [H.R. 5895] into law,” Schneider added in Friday’s statement, “and I will continue to work to build on this progress by advancing the STRANDED Act to finally compensate communities like Zion what they deserve.”

In addition to forming a task force, the STRANDED proposal would compensate communities storing waste through economic impact grants and would establish tax credits to encourage development and homeownership in affected communities.

Last year, ZionSolutions, which is part of Utah-based EnergySolutions, said it will finish deconstructing and demolishing the deactivated Zion nuclear power plant and its 20-story containment silos in 2018, according to EnergySolutions Vice-President Mark Walker, but 61 casks full of spent nuclear rods will remain on-site until a repository is found.

Work to complete the decommissioning of the Zion site proceeded this month as crews began demolition of the plant’s former containment silos.

When ComEd was running the plant, Zion received about $19.5 million annually in taxes from it, according to Zion Finance Director David Knabel.

However, with the plant having shut down in 1998, the 267 lakefront acres owned by Exelon, which now owns ComEd, generate only $500,000 annually in taxes, Knabel said last year.

Zion has had to raise property taxes dramatically to make up for the shortfall, Knabel said. The property tax rate in Zion is over 19 percent, he added, which has caused homeowners to flee the city. This lowered real estate values, resulting in Zion having a population composed of 60 percent renters.


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