SEABROOK — The Seabrook Power Plant stimulated $535 million of economic growth locally and $1.4 billion nationally in 2011, according to a new report, which says the station supports 650 direct jobs and 1,980 additional jobs indirectly by goods and services required by operations and employee needs.
The analysis released today by the Nuclear Energy Institute in Washington, D.C., was completed in cooperation with NextEra Energy, the plant's owner and operator. It breaks down the economic impact locally, regionally, statewide and nationally, and looks at both direct and indirect impacts to the economy.
The report comes as Next-Era seeks a 20-year license renewal for the Seabrook Power Plant. The company is licensed to operate through 2030.
That process for all nuclear power plant license renewals has been slowed as the federal government tries to decide what to do with the nuclear waste generated by such power plants.
NextEra estimates that Seabrook's 20-year license renewal, which, if approved, would allow the plant to operate through 2050, could provide another $50 billion in economic benefits to the U.S. economy.
Gov. Maggie Hassan will visit the power plant today to speak to the plant's statewide economic impact and see firsthand how crews respond to sudden situations through a test in the fully simulated control room.
Area business leaders have long believed the plant is an economic engine, but the new independent report quantifies it.
University of New Hampshire Professor of Economics & Natural Resources Richard England reviewed the report and concluded the model used for the study is the most conservative of those being used to conduct economic impact studies today. He said the data in the report shows the substantial and positive impact Seabrook Station has on the economy.
The study found that for every dollar of output from Seabrook, the local economy produced $1.34 while the New Hampshire economy produced $1.39. In state and local property taxes alone, the power plant contributes $23 million annually.
The report also looks at the emissions-free aspects of the energy production which, according to the report, prevents the emission of nearly 4 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of taking 700,000 cars off the road while generating about 40 percent of the state's electricity.
It also looked at community impact, including financial and time donations, including annual campaigns and Day of Caring participation for the United Way of the Greater Seacoast.
Of particular note is that jobs at the power plant are typically higher-paying than many others in the region. According to the report, in Rockingham and Strafford counties, Seabrook employees make more than double the average amount for other workers.
Jim Roche, president of the Business and Industry Association, the statewide chamber of commerce, said the report does reflect the economic benefits the station provides to the Seacoast and the region and why it is an important asset, but he was not entirely surprised.
"When you have a big asset like that, it's going to have a big economic impact," Roche said, referencing some of the state's other large assets, including the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and Pease International Tradeport. He said the high-paying jobs offered at the power plant speak to the sophisticated operations of the plant.
"They are highly technical, and so you need people with tremendous skills and intellectual capacity for many of the jobs there," Roche said.
Every 18 to 24 months, the plant must shut down to refuel, requiring additional crews who need places to stay, shop and eat while they are in the area.
"When they have to do their shutdowns … they bring in, needless to say, a ton of people that come into the hotels, stay in the area, eat in our local restaurants, participate in any particular events that are here when they are off duty, and that certainly adds a tremendous amount to the region, particularly when we are not in the high season," Hampton Chamber of Commerce President Doc Noel said.
Local real estate agent and business owner Bob Preston can attest to this, as he prepares to make calls to customers ahead of a shutdown scheduled for the spring.
He said they have a lot of repeat customers who come back four or five times.
Preston said the timing of their arrivals is always good.
"We don't want them in the middle of the summer because they can't afford it and are going to go somewhere else, and we don't want them in the dead of winter either because the houses are shut down, so they come in the fall and spring, a time of year everyone can use the extra money," Preston said.
In addition to housing, laundries, restaurants and local shops also see an uptick in business. And they are exactly the kind of visitors Preston said he and the community are happy to have.
"All these guys do is work and sleep … to get into that power plant you can't have any kind of issues, the way everyone is vetted so well today, so they are perfect from our perspective and what they do for the area. I love having them here," Preston said.
He said it is also nice to have an employer providing good-paying jobs in the area, with many other corporations moving out of town, including Wheelabrator and Tyco.
"Corporate business for us is almost nonexistent now, which makes it even more important to have that kind of employer, to me," Preston said.