A year ago the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant appeared to be entering its final phase of life. Its 40-year operating license was due to expire a week from today, and Vermont’s state government had positioned itself in the way of a license extension. But that was before the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission blithely granted the plant an extra 20 years, and before a federal judge ruled the state had no say in the matter.

There’s still uncertainty about the future of the 600-megawatt boiling water reactor on the banks of the Connecticut River. The judge’s ruling is on appeal, and, given the record of accidents at the plant, there’s no telling when the big power generator will stop working.

But this much is sure: At some point the plant will stop generating electricity (ideally uneventfully), and will also stop producing taxes and payroll for an economically dependent region and state.

The certainty of an end led to the organization of a panel that this week spelled out what has to be done to prepare for that day. The report by the Post- Vermont Yankee Task Force is convincing in its alarm that the region that relies on Vermont Yankee for fully 5 percent of its wage income won’t bounce back on its own whenever the plant closes.

The task force recommended marketing Windham County to investors, expanding job training, promoting tourism and taking stock of commercial properties, among other steps. And it pushed for the state government to insist on immediate decommissioning when the time comes, and not let the radioactive site remain intact for decades with just a team of guards standing around.

These steps highlight the overlooked economic aspect of the Yankee presence, and confirm that before that presence ends, the wheels of recovery must start turning, whatever one feels about nuclear power generally, or this plant in particular.

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