Nuclear Community of Practice: A look back
Beginning in July 2021, the Nuclear Communities Technical Assistance Team (TA Team) hosted and facilitated a virtual Community of Practice (CoP) as part of its capacity-building activities. The CoP was designed to bring together partners from nuclear host communities from across the country to discuss experiences, ideas, and resources that contribute to their long-term economic, social, and environmental resilience.
With each gathering on Zoom, the TA Team saw first-hand how providing a safe space for these conversations provided more than just a platform to discuss important issues; it was also a space where participants received validation from each other for their work and experiences addressing challenging economic development issues that at times could feel personal and were high-stakes. By sharing and “cross-pollinating” with one another, the CoP fostered a supportive community and brought awareness to the variety of obstacles stakeholders face.
Phase One of the CoP included three sessions which organized participants by their community’s plant status (closed, announced decommissioning, or operating, as depicted above). Each session had a flexible structure to encourage open dialogue but also included a brief educational /resource presentation to help facilitate discussion. Those who attended were eager to participate, learn from others, and get a better understanding of other people’s situations.
What we heard: Key issues by group
July 2021: Closed CoP
- Frustration around lack of resources & regional influence to protect/stimulate local economy
- EDA funding doesn’t always support reuse/redevelopment planning for site itself
- Spent fuel challenges, housing needs for a growing workforce, etc.
August 2021: Announced decommissioning CoP
- EDA funding doesn’t typically focus on site redevelopment/ownership issues;, focusing instead on planning and damage control processes
- Local fiscal challenges and value capture opportunities from hosting a unique industry
September 2021: Opened CoP
- Communicating urgency of planning for closure to community and local leaders
- Technical aspects of decommissioning (funding opportunities for resiliency/diversification planning)
- Building regional and state legislative support
Other key issues
- EDA funding application process: long, difficult & can discourage lower-capacity communities from applying
- Support for how to write competitive applications
- Low local capacity to plan for and deal with impacts of closure
- Knowing what to ask & how to evaluate local context before approaching TA Team for support
Phase 2: Building a wider audience
The TA Team also opened up the conversation to a wider audience and hosted the first-ever national Nuclear Forum in April 2022. With over 100 attendees, the event virtually convened an array of stakeholders, experts, community leaders, and representatives from federal organizations including EDA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). With the success of the Forum, the TA Team evaluated the feedback and suggestions and organized an in-person workshop, the Midwest Nuclear Economic Resilience Conference in Morris, IL in November 2022. Attendees included an array of CoP attendees who were eager to do some one-on-one training with the TA Team to plan for economic mitigation strategies in anticipation of the closing of their local plant. Workshops and activities included identifying local assets outside of the nearest nuclear generating station, identifying key stakeholders that needed to be involved in conversations about future changes in plant operations, and an informal networking happy hour to bring attendees together to share stories, resources, and experiences. Into 2023, the CoP continued conversations and offered an event focused on economic resilience, with discussions focused on taking stock of a community’s resources and moving towards economic resilience. In particular, planning for an economically uncertain future, and what actions can be taken to keep things moving forward and engaging decision makers.
Phase 3: Final events
On the heels of the gathering in Morris, the TA Team brought together CoP participants for a final gathering in the summer of 2023. On July 26, Putting It All Together: Your Journey and the Road Forward, the TA Team welcomed Erik Pages, President of Entreworks Consulting, who shared ideas about economic diversification and lessons learned from working with coal and nuclear energy transition communities across the country. The NCC TA Team facilitated conversation about attendees’ experiences and their own lessons learned while working to promote economic development and resilience in their communities.
The TA Team held a second large, virtual event, Building Economic Resilience in Energy Host Communities: A Nuclear Communities Forum, in September 2023
Over the course of three years, the TA Team has interacted, advised, and collaborated with many nuclear host communities in various stages of their nuclear resiliency journeys. From closed plants to vibrant productive plants, communities all shared one thing in common: their desire to seek out connections. Knowing they were not alone and that others were in similar situations provided comfort and comradery that resonated with participants. While the formal meetings of the nuclear CoP have come to an end, the connections and relationships formed will continue. They will not only provide mutual support but also comfort and validation to each other knowing they are part of a unique cohort dealing with the issues and challenges of living in a nuclear host community.
This assistance is part of a partnership between these four organizations, supported by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
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.