Palm Coast, FL – March 23, 2011
– With Japan's nuclear power plant crisis still unresolved, people and their governments around the world are reassessing the safety of their nuclear plants. A Reuters' story
suggests that buyers will discount the value of homes near nuclear plants despite years of safe operations.
I grew up in Ontario, N.Y.,
a small town along the shore of Lake Ontario
, 20 miles east of Rochester
. There were only 66 students in my 1961 graduating class; the school district included two towns. We were so small we couldn't afford a football team. But since 1970, Ontario has had an operating nuclear power plant. The Robert E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant was originally built by Rochester Gas & Electric. It's now owned by Constellation Energy.
Over a period of years, I lived in two separate homes only a few miles downwind from Ginna. Hardly anyone paid much attention to the plant itself or to the several warning sirens located around town. Frequent tests of the warning system were comforting.
The most noticeable impact of the plant was its impact on local property taxes. I recall that when built, the plant accounted for more than half the town's total taxable value. I think I remember Ontario's taxes being about half those of adjoining towns. For years, the town and the school district thrived as the town transitioned from a rural farming community to a great place for Rochester workers to live. Real estate was made more attractive by lower property taxes. The much larger school district now boasts a football team.
I was living there in January 1982 when a small amount of radioactive steam leaked into the air after a steam-generator tube ruptured. The leak which lasted 93 minutes led to the declaration of a site emergency but no local evacuations. We were concerned, but our concerns were short-lived.
The Reuters' story
speculates on whether value reductions will be short or long lived. "Just how temporary — and how big — any negative impact might be remains to be seen, Clark
[a professor of economics at Marquette University] and others say. If, for example, one or more of the crippled nuclear reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant go into complete meltdown and there’s a large release of radiation into the air, the chilling effect — and with it, a downward push on home values in nuclear towns like Buchanan, New York. Plymouth, Massachusetts, and San Luis Obispo, California — could last longer than the maximum of two to three years economists would consider temporary."
I plan to visit Ontario twice this summer; once in July for my grandson's wedding and again in August for my 50th high school reunion.