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Millstone Owners Again Raise Specter Of Nuclear Plant's Retirement

Millstone Power Station

Legislators in Hartford recently passed over a bill to aid the Millstone nuclear station. Plant owners now say they have authority to close the facility, which employs over 1,000 people in Waterford and accounts for about half of Connecticut’s net electricity generation.

It was a tightrope walk for Millstone this legislative session. A bill to assist the plant financially died in part because Millstone’s owner, Dominion Energy, wouldn’t share details of its finances.

Now, Dominion is continuing to hint at possibly closing Millstone, with officials saying its carbon-free electricity is undervalued at a time when low natural gas prices hurt the nuclear industry nationwide.

In letters exchanged this month with ISO New England, the regional grid manager told Millstone it could retire its plant, but not until 2022, because of contracts already in place.

According to an ISO spokesperson, Millstone could attempt to trade those obligations to another supplier to retire earlier, but regulators would need to sign off on that to ensure grid reliability.

"ISO New England does not have the authority to prevent a resource from retiring," said spokesperson Matthew Kakley in an e-mail. "If ISO New England determines that a resource’s retirement would adversely impact overall grid reliability, we do have the authority to offer the generator a special reliability contract to remain in operation. We do not, however, have the authority to require the generator to accept the contract."

The next window for generators to submit retirement plans to ISO New England is March 2018.

In an email Tuesday, Ken Holt, a spokesperson for Millstone, said there’s no decision yet about officially retiring the plant, but that an “economic assessment” is ongoing.

Copyright 2017 Connecticut Public

Patrick Skahill is a reporter at WNPR. He covers science and the environment. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of WNPR's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.