The Fate of Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station
As cheaper natural gas floods the energy market, nuclear power plants nationwide are going out of business. Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station is located in rural Ottawa County on the Lake Erie shoreline, with a school district dependent for 40 percent of its annual tax revenues on the power plant. The local economy benefits from millions of tax dollars generated annually by the plant which employs about 700 people and produces enough power for one million homes at maximum capacity. Photojournalist Molly Corfman tells the story of the impact aging nuclear power plant and the economic effect on the community. First Energy said it will announce by mid-2018 a decision to sell, close or keep open the plant.
The FirstEnergy plants in Ohio sell their energy at market prices that have dramatically fallen since the recession hit in 2008. Davis-Besse’s operation generates $805 million of annual economic output in Ottawa County and $1.1 billion statewide. FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company said the decision on whether to keep Davis-Besse open, sell it or close the plant will likely come in the middle of 2018.
A buyer will be difficult to find for the 40-year-old plant aging plant, with nuclear power not as economically competitive as natural gas and other fuel sources. First Energy said it will announce by mid-2018 a decision to sell, close or keep open the plant. This decision will be announced around the time of an expensive refueling scheduled for the spring, and a scheduled bond payment of $98.9 million due by April 2, 2018.
The Ohio Department of Taxation awarded a significant devaluation to FirstEnergy for its equipment at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station. As a result, the Benton-Carroll-Salem school district will lose almost $5 million annually in tax revenue derived from the nuclear plant starting in 2018. Other government and social service agencies will suffer substantial revenue losses related to the state’s devaluation.
Video: Mental health board prepares for cuts 1:10
Brenda Cronin, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Erie and Ottawa Counties, talks about the loss in tax revenue after the devaluation of Davis–Besse Nuclear Power Station.
Davis-Besse’s neighbors and residents throughout Ottawa County are worried about what would happen when contractors stop coming to the plant for scheduled refueling outages and maintenance cycles. If the plant ultimately is retired as planned in 2020, what will that mean for taxpayers and business owners who depend — to varying degrees — on Davis-Besse workers and contractors to get them through the lean winter months?
FirstEnergy Solutions is continuing to operate Davis-Besse while the company steers through bankruptcy proceedings after announcing plans to deactivate the plant. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Northern District of Ohio in Akron. Local residents wonder what the possible closure might mean for the area and community.