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Defending Nuclear Power (With Poll)

Millstone Officials Discuss Their Downsides Of Regulation

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.

David Irons October 27, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Goes to show, once again, how unfriendly our state is to business. They require a study of cooling towers that most likely will not be built and regulations make it prohibitive to build another nuclear plant. On the national level, the fed long ago promised to take possession of spent fuel, eventually planned to go to Yucca Mountain. Now Yucca is shut down and the power plants have no place to ship the fuel. More great planing by our illustrious government officials. We know we need more such plants but continue to throw roadblocks up in front of them.
Jamie Clemons October 27, 2011 at 06:08 PM
How many more Fukushimas will it take for humans to learn that nuclear energy is not safe and not clean and not worth the risk?
David Irons October 27, 2011 at 06:56 PM
Jamie, Millstone and other US nuclear plants are not Fukushima nor are they Chernobyl. To compare them as you do is to compare a Corvair to a Cadillac.
John Sheehan October 27, 2011 at 08:04 PM
The cooling tower study is one of the requirements of the clean water permit that the "old" DEP (now DEEP) finally renewed last year (it only took ten years). It was part of an agreement with the Soundkeeper environmental association, who had intervenor status in the process, to get them to sign off on the permit and not sue DEEP for issuing it. It is unfortunate that the regulatory and taxing environment in CT is such that Dominion feels it necessary to build a new plant at their North Anna, VA site before Millstone but it makes sense from Dominion's perspective. The plants in VA are regulated and Dominion is guarenteed a return on investment from the State Legislature. After completing that new plant, the company will then be able to come to the State of CT and tell the then governor and legislature that a new plant at Millstone will cost $X and will take Y years to complete and Dominion needs the following Z guarentees and permits without hassle before they will be able to build such a plant. The current plants received a license extension recently so they are good until 2035 and 2045 (That is from memory, I could be off up to five years). Since it takes ten years to license and ten years to build a new plant, CT better get off a dime soon to encourage Dominion to invest a in a new plant.
cliff October 27, 2011 at 08:28 PM
The real issus is not with what nuclear power provides its with what it leaves behind which is the most serious matter and a extreme hazard to the enviroment and human life.. Nuclear can not continue to pile up nuclear waste, wet storage or casks does not matter, and just be allowed to store tonnes of spent fuel rods an sites. Nuclear power plants can not continue to operate- forever without some realistic plan to decommission. The reactor vessels are far to stressed, brittle and wornout, The design life cycles are allowed to double and triple without regard for consequences. I strongly believe that the threeFukushima plant explosions and total meltdown was not a result of enviromental cause, that was the trigger, it was due to wornout, stressed and fatigue.Had the other three reactors been in operation, they too would most likely would have failed as well. Over 29 plants in the US have simular conditions- just waiting for their-- trigger.

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