US Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill., has introduced a bill that would compensate Zion and other communities that have served as storage facilities for nuclear waste.
Exelon’s Zion Nuclear Power Station has housed about 1,020 metric tons of used nuclear fuel since it closed in 1998, according to a news release from Dold. In 2002, it was determined the fuel would be moved to the Yucca Mountain storage facility, which has not yet opened.
Dold said Zion is one of 13 communities across the country storing nuclear fuel from a closed power plant. The Stranded Nuclear Waste Accountability Act would compensate Zion more than $15 million annually for seven years, an expiration date Dold said he hopes will push elected officials to find a long-term solution.
“We want to compensate these communities while it’s being stored here until we can again move it up to some other site,” Dold said as he discussed the bill with Zion Mayor Al Hill at the Zion Senior Center on Monday.
Hill said he hopes to use the compensation to keep the city’s tax rate down. The plant’s closure resulted in an immediate loss of about 55 percent of Zion’s tax base, according to Nuclear Energy Information Service.
Currently, the Zion School District 6 tax rate is 21.456 percent, and the Zion School District 3 tax rate is 18.050 percent, according to Zion Township Assessor Larry Wicketts. Both rates are the highest in the county.
In 2014, a homeowner in District 6 would pay $9,331 on a $150,000 home in Zion. A homeowner in Lake Forest would pay $2,471 on a $150,000 home in that community, Wicketts said.
“That’s what’s really killing Zion. It’s because of the high tax rate,” he said.
For Zion Township Supervisor Cheri Neal, simply introducing legislation offers hope for the community that she says is going over a cliff because it can’t lower taxes and is seeing its residents leave. She added that the city is seeing a rise in low-income housing and students facing poverty.
“Hopeless is really how a lot of people were feeling, and this literally sows the seeds of hope that we really are on the path of turning our community around,” Neal said. “And once you change people’s energy about it, then you can do anything.”
Paul Kakuris, president of the Illinois Dunesland Preservation Society, said he does not think the proposed legislation goes far enough. He said officials have “stars in their eyes” because the bill promises dollars, but it ignores the need to remove two pipes from the plant that extend hundreds of feet into Lake Michigan.