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Burial of a radioactive bill

Connecticut is heavily reliant on nuclear power. Never mind that long-term forever storage of high level radioactive waste has yet to be solved, many continue to argue that nuclear energy is the least expensive and most environmentally friendly energy source.

According to the Connecticut Mirror, nuclear energy produces 63 percent of carbon-free energy in the U.S. and 97 percent in Connecticut. This above-average dependency allows Connecticut to continually meet its clean air goals, which are a part of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan that President Trump has been working to dismantle.

The Millstone Power Plant in Waterford is the only nuclear power generation site in Connecticut and the only multi-unit nuclear power plant in New England. For the last several years Dominion Resources, which owns and operates the plant, has intimated that it would close the facility, claiming that the cost to operate is now too high to profitably run it. This is an issue in recent years due to the increasing availability of less costly natural gas, although there is not enough public discussion about the real costs of cheap natural gas.

Dominion sought legislative solutions to this problem over a year ago, but this June a watered-down version of its original requests passed the state Senate.

The adopted Senate bill is a relief bill to help Millstone become more competitive given the abundance of affordable natural gas, which is also incorporated into the clean energy use calculation. Dominion did not claim that the failure to pass the bill would result in closure of the plant but did argue that such assistance is the only way to save Millstone. The House declined to vote, causing the bill to expire and die.

One of the biggest concerns with the proposed law is the lack of transparency surrounding Millstone. Dominion Resources is a private company that is not required to open its books to the state. But it is seeking taxpayer relief and asking the state to step in and create a more competitive and lucrative market for it without providing any evidence that state assistance is needed to keep Millstone operating. Clearly, before the state legislature adopts any law to boost Dominion’s profits, taxpayers and customers deserve evidence that Millstone is on a trajectory to closure.

Dominion can close Millstone at any time. But it risks hefty fees if it does so before May 31, 2021, as a result of its obligation to ISO-New England, the non-profit that ensures energy flow in 6 New England states.

For Dominion, the fight is not over, it will continue pursuing legislation to prop it up, making it more competitive with natural gas in Connecticut. But until it provides proof that it is in danger of closure, taxpayers cannot be expected to pay for it. Keep your eyes and ears open because this nuclear nuisance is not over yet.

 Cecilia Petricone is an intern at the Office of the Community Lawyer and a sophomore at Boston College.