In the 17 years since Maine Yankee began dismantling its reactors and shedding its 600 workers, this small, coastal town north of Portland has experienced drastic changes: property taxes have spiked by more than 10 times for the town’s 3,700 residents, the number living in poverty has more than doubled as many professionals left, and town services and jobs have been cut.
“I have yet to meet anyone happy that Maine Yankee is gone,” said Laurie Smith, the town manager. “All these years later, we’re still feeling the loss of jobs, the economic downturn, and the huge tax increases....”
“It became a ghost town,” said [Tony] True, 51, who has lived in Wiscasset most of his life.... “I wish Maine Yankee never came here,” he said. “We went from having anything we wanted to having nothing, like going from being spoiled children to having no parents. The closing really put a curtain on Wiscasset....”
But the plant faced serious allegations of safety violations and falsifying records around the time it was closed, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Agency investigators found Maine Yankee relied on inadequate computer analyses to demonstrate the adequacy of its emergency core cooling system; “willfully provided inaccurate information” to the NRC about its ability to vent steam during an accident; and provided falsified records of safety-related equipment.
“Many of these violations and underlying causes were longstanding and appeared to be caused by ineffective engineering analyses,” NRC officials wrote to Maine Yankee shortly after the plant closed.
They added that Maine Yankee “was a facility in which pressure to be a low-cost performer led to practices which over-relied on judgment, discouraged problem reporting, and accepted low standards of performance.”