Geographical Political Economy of Nuclear Power Plant Closure

Authors: Daisaku Yamamoto*, Colgate University
Topics: Economic Geography, Energy, Rural Geography
Keywords: nuclear, energy, geographical political economy, plant closure
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8224, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Nuclear power plants in the United States today face an uncertain future. An increasing number of plants are shutting down before their licenses expire, leaving host communities struggling to cope with the unexpected change. Yet few studies to date have articulated how power emerges in decommissioning decisions, especially from geographical political economy perspectives. This case study investigates two nuclear power plants with divergent decommissioning outcomes: the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba, New York, which was not decommissioned, and the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Vernon, Vermont, which began decommissioning in 2014. In particular we examine whether insights from the geographical political economy perspective offer useful framework in understanding the recent nuclear decommissioning episodes in the northeastern United States. We analyzed existing accounts, news articles, government documents, and interviews that we conducted with 26 stakeholders, including state and county officials, reporters, grassroots activists, and community members. We highlight that decommissioning decisions were critically influenced by cross-scalar interactions informed by the global sustainability discourse and historically formed state-scale energy economy, and by intra-state politics as the result of variegated geographies of nuclear power in each state.

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