"It's a major blow to the region," said Wilfried Muechler, one of the approximately 350 Unterweser employees who have been retained to run testing, maintenance and security. "The restaurants are definitely feeling it. And it's a catastrophe for the small businesses that work with the plant. They're the first to get axed: the painters, the electricians, the carpenters. It affects everyone."
Although other jobs will be created as Germany expands its renewable-energy sector, most of them will not be in the same areas as the nuclear plants, leaving nuclear-dependent regions in precarious positions. Towns such as Kleinensiel are already feeling the pain just as Germany suffers a broader economic slowdown.
Schierhold harbors no illusions about Kleinensiel's future. The town won't be able to attract major new industries, and its geography isn't suitable for the construction of the offshore wind farms that are transforming the economies of areas to the north, he says.
He simply hopes that Unterweser's operator, the power company E.on, chooses to dismantle the plant rather than encase it in concrete and let it sit idle. The full dismantling would take 10 to 15 years, during which a portion of the workers at Unterweser would remain employed.
It's a bleak prospect, pinning the town's economic hopes on the slow destruction of what was once its engine. But it's better than the alternative, which would see all the plant's remaining employees out of a job in just a few years.
In the meantime, the giant white dome of the Unterweser plant serves as a constant reminder of a policy that many here consider misguided.
"Our facilities were serviced every year; they're in perfect shape," said Maik Otholt, a Kleinensiel resident. "Nothing ever went wrong. And so now what are we doing? We're buying nuclear energy from France. Their plant is just over the border. And now we're buying that expensive electricity. It's crazy."
Wiener is a special correspondent.