Jul 30, 2014

Defending Nuclear Power (With Poll)

Millstone Officials Discuss Their Downsides Of Regulation

Defending Nuclear Power (With Poll)

Millstone Power Station produces enough energy to power half of Connecticut. It pays $80 million in state and local taxes annually, it’s Waterford’s largest employer, with 1,100 employees earning a gross average annual salary of $144,000, it donates millions to the local community and purchases $200 million a year in goods and services from Connecticut businesses.

And yet, said Plant Vice President Skip Jordan, Connecticut is making it nearly impossible for Millstone to expand its business, or even keep what it has.

“I’d love to build another reactor here,” Jordan said Wednesday, referring to the fact that Millstone was built to hold six reactors, not three. “But the political and regulatory climate just don’t allow for it.”

Jordan, along with other plant officials, took reporters on an informational tour of Millstone Wednesday. While the majority of the time was spent showing journalists how a nuclear power plant works, the topic of politics also came up.

Taxes; $1 Billion Cooling Towers

Earlier this year, the General Assembly considered a bill that would have increased taxes on Millstone by . Dominion officials said at the time that if passed it would have . The bill failed.

Now, the state is having Dominion do a study to analyze the effectiveness of putting three cooling towers at Millstone. These towers, which would create a closed-cooling system, would replace Millstone’s current open-cooling system, which takes water from Long Island Sound to cool the plant.

Some environmentalists dislike Millstone’s current open-cooling system because it releases water back into the Sound that is 1 degree warmer than what it was at intake, and can kill fish when the water is sucked up into the system, Jordan said. However, Millstone was shut down for two years in the mid-1990s, and in that time the fish population in the area stayed flat, said Kevin Hennessy, Dominion's Director of Governmental Affairs in New England.

Meanwhile, there are consequences of putting in cooling towers, Jordan said. First off, the cooling towers are 500 feet tall, and are 100 yards wide at the bottom, an impossible-to-miss eyesore, Dominion Spokesman Ken Holt said.

They would also be loud, Holt said. And the towers would create a constant fog in Niantic Bay and Millstone Point, Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward said.

“We find it to be so inappropriate, yet there is nothing we can do,” Steward said.

The cost of building the three towers would be around $1 billion, Hennessy said. Also, it may not even be possible to do it, Jordan said.

“No nuclear plant has ever had to retroactively install cooling towers,” he said. “We would have to look at the feasibility to see if we can even do it.”

The report is due in 2012, although a decision on cooling towers will probably not be made immediately after, Jordan said.

Nuclear Spent Fuel

The next problem is the issue of nuclear spent fuel, Jordan said. Before, nuclear spent fuel was mostly kept within the units themselves, in “wet” storage, but in anticipation of new regulations following Fukushima, Millstone has begun taking more out of Unit 2 and putting it in dry cask storage, Jordan said.

The real answer though is a national nuclear repository, once expected to be Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but that appears less and less likely, Jordan said.

“The real solution is a national repository,” he said.

The country needs power, Steward said. And yet the company that is producing the most power in Connecticut is being treated unfairly, Steward said.

“The frustrating thing is we need power," Steward said. "But we don't want to support it."

Also, building another reactor at Millstone is difficult because Connecticut is deregulated, Hennessy said. In regulated states, such as Virginia, the rates can be increased to absorb the cost of building a new reactor, he said. Meanwhile in a deregulated market, the company only receives money after it starts producing electricity from the reactor, a process that can take more than a decade, Hennessy said.

So, Dominion is looking into building a new reactor in Virginia, not Connecticut, Hennessy said. “Less risk," he said.

Editor's Note: The original story said Dominion is planning to build a reactor in Virginia, although that has yet to be made final, Millstone Spokesman Ken Holt said.

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