Helping communities face the difficult challenge of nuclear plant closure

Smart Growth America’s new Nuclear Closure Communities Technical Assistance program is supporting communities that are making the difficult transition when a nuclear plant closes.

Our new Nuclear Closure Communities Technical Assistance program is designed to help the dozens of American communities facing the closure of a nuclear plant to better prepare and plan for a post-nuclear power plant future. This program is providing guidance and analysis, offering a set of tools, and building a supportive community of practice to better position the municipalities and regions bracing for this dislocation.

We recently opened the program up for interested communities, which we explained in detail in this online informational session last week: 

Read about the basics of the program in this press release and sign up for our newsletter by selecting ‘yes’ for the Nuclear Closure Communities list here to stay up to date with the program.

We got a range of questions that we didn’t have time to answer, which are covered in depth below. For communities that are interested in getting assistance or have a question, please contact us here:

General questions

Is there a cost for a Nuclear Closure Community (NCC) to obtain Technical Assistance (TA) assistance from this team?

No, this technical assistance program is fully funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration; there is no direct cost to communities to access or participate in this program.

This is the first time I’ve heard about EDDs and CEDS.  Can you explain more about what they are and their role in economic development planning? 

Economic Development Districts (EDDs) are multi-jurisdictional, most often multi-county, planning and economic development organizations federally-designated by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to serve distressed regions. These public-based entities play an invaluable role in fostering intergovernmental collaboration among federal, state, and local officials; deliver and manage federal and state programs; and work to solve area-wide issues to address the fundamental building blocks required for competitive and resilient communities and economies. An EDD may go by a different name depending on where you live, including “council of governments,” “regional planning commission,” “development commission,” or others.  

Among the many responsibilities in serving their regions is the planning, writing, and implementation of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, or CEDS. Essentially, the CEDS is your region’s roadmap to economic opportunity—a locally-based, regionally-driven economic development planning process and document that creates the space for your region to identify its strengths and weaknesses and brings together a diverse set of partners to generate good jobs, diversify the economy, and spur economic growth. An effective CEDS allows a region to maximize its economic development potential, as well as engage with EDA and other federal partners to receive infrastructure and technical assistance grants, such as EDA’s Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance programs, as well as timely funding opportunities that respond to current economic conditions (e.g., the CARES Act) caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more at and    


How much NCC funding is available? What other resources are available from EDA?

At present, there is $13.5 million available for nuclear closure communities under EDA’s NCC program. Several communities are presently working with EDA regional offices to pursue this funding, some of which has already been awarded. 

From a Congressional standpoint, there are House and Senate bills which contain proposed FY2021 funding levels that are similar to what was appropriated in FY 2020. As such, there may be additional NCC funding in the near term. 

There is also Economic Adjustment Assistance available from EDA and this team can help you prepare to apply for and utilize those resources effectively and identify eligibility for other Federal programs.

Community considerations

What are the primary outcomes that communities should be trying to accomplish throughout this process as a local nuclear power plant is closed?

One of the first things for a community to do is understand the economic impact of the plant closure.  Data is critical and often communities are unaware what impact the closing nuclear plant has on the local and regional economy—the challenge is to define that impact and fill that gap. Communities should be aware that in addition to direct job loss, typical socioeconomic impacts include decrease in tax revenues, declines in purchasing of local goods and services, worker outmigration and a localized decline in housing values. 

By participating in this technical assistance program, local communities have an opportunity to  explore economic diversification, leverage assets such as natural resources, historic sites, and legacy buildings, and build a place-based economic revitalization strategy. This work can begin regardless of the timeline for plant closure.

Community activities that this technical assistance program can support include:

  • Measuring and evaluating anticipated economic impacts
  • Taking stock of existing capacity, opportunities, other assets to leverage
  • Identifying and building possible partnerships
  • Informing/preparing their stakeholders/communities
  • Preparing plans for economic adjustment, such as CEDS, land use plans, fiscal/financial planning
  • Other actions and planning that overlap and influence with economic outcomes  

How much of an advantage is this program to smaller communities facing closures within the next 10-20 years. Is now the time for us to plan? 

Yes, experience indicates that now is the time to plan. The sooner the planning process is begun, the better a community will be able to manage the impacts of plant closure. All plants will eventually close, as they have a limited design-life, and host communities are well-advised to plan for their post-nuclear future whether it may be arriving in 5 or 35 years.

For communities seeking NCC funding with plants that are already closed, is there a sunset period, after which funding cannot be granted because closure was too long ago? Additionally, what are key economic distress indicators that EDA looks for in closure communities?

There is no sunset period, and eligibility is not time-dependent. For communities where plants have already closed, it will be important to quantify the impact of nuclear plant closure. In other words, ambient economic distress is not likely to be sufficient grounds for a funding award. In order to qualify for EDA assistance, demonstration of economic distress is usually required which means:

  • Unemployment rates 1 percent or higher than national average in last 24 months
  • Per capita income
    • 80 percent of lower per capita income than national average over last 24 months
  • NCC fit “special need” criteria
    • Economic injury from closure—in community or adjacent community (or within job shed). 
    • See Section 3.b. of the NOFO for more information on “special need” criteria:


What about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the energy utility? What role do they play?

The NRC and the utility are narrowly focused on safely removing the facility from service and reducing residual radioactivity to permissible levels per NRC regulations. Socioeconomic issues resulting from plant closure are generally outside of their consideration. This is a gap that the NCC TA program is designed to fill. While the NRC and the utilities are key stakeholders in the decommissioning process, this program focuses on supporting the critically important community planning and economic development efforts that will determine success in a post-nuclear future.

How can this program help with site remediation considerations?

EDA funding cannot directly support work on privately owned land, which is typically the type of property that may require remediation from the operation of a nuclear power plant. However, there may be opportunities for EDA to support economic development projects in coordination with site remediation efforts.

Per the NRC, “during an environmental review, the NRC staff analyzes the potential impacts of a proposed action on different aspects of the human environment, such as land use, visual resources, air quality, noise levels, aesthetics, geology and soils, surface and groundwater, terrestrial and aquatic ecology, human health, historic and cultural resources, socioeconomics, transportation, environmental justice, and waste management. The staff also evaluates alternatives to the proposed action.” Learn more about NRC and EPA’s basic framework for the relationship of the agencies in the radiological decommissioning and decontamination of NRC-licensed sites.

Is there any hope to mandate Community Advisory Boards (CABs) or Stakeholder Assessments? What other ways might we best enable these crucial steps for all decommissioning processes?

A CAB is a forum for stakeholder engagement associated with the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant. The issue of CABs is outside of the Nuclear Communities Closure Technical Assistance scope and is better addressed by the NRC. Experience indicates that good and constructive stakeholder engagement and collaboration is a key ingredient in successful decommissioning projects. 

How does this work relate to the Stranded Act?

The STRANDED Act (H.R.5608 – STRANDED Act of 2020) is pending legislation focusing on compensation related to the presence of spent nuclear fuel from the operation of a nuclear power plant. The STRANDED Act is unrelated to the technical assistance we are providing to nuclear closure communities.

Please contact us here with any questions

This effort utilizes Federal funds under award ED20HDQ3030068 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the project team and do not necessarily reflect the views of EDA or the U.S. Department of Commerce.