Biggest nuclear plant in New England threatening to shut down

Dominion Energy

The Millstone Nuclear Power Station, located in Waterford, Conn., is the only multi-unit nuclear plant in New England.

By Jason Hopkins

The Millstone Nuclear Power Station is threatening to shut down its doors if state regulators move forward with a plan to delay its involvement in a support program.

Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill in October 2017 that allows the Millstone Nuclear Station — the state’s largest source of zero-carbon electricity  — to participate in certain carbon-free contracts, providing economic relief to Connecticut’s last remaining nuclear plant. The point of the contracts are to reward clean energy producers with higher prices for their electricity.

However, a proposal recently issued by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is calling for a delay in Millstone’s involvement for another five years, not allowing the plant to make bids until 2023.

Dominion Energy, the owner and operator of Millstone, is threatening to decommission the plant completely if DEEP initiatives the delay.

“Millstone is at risk now and must face critical business decisions regarding the future, irrespective of the consequences those decisions might have on Connecticut or the New England region,” Paul Koonce, the CEO of Dominion Energy, said in a statement. According to Dominion Energy, Millstone is in desperate need of the help. Rising operational costs and competition from cheap natural gas has eroded the plant’s revenue.

The situation is very emblematic of the nuclear industry as a whole, where plants across the U.S. have closed due to economic hardships. Numerous state governments have either passed or are considering bailout options to keep their nuclear reactors running. At the federal level, the Trump administration’s proposal to keep at-risk power plants from shutting down includes both coal and nuclear.

Connecticut’s energy sector would undoubtedly be rattled if Millstone chose to close down. The tiny New England state does not have any fossil fuel reserves, largely dependent on imports of natural gas. Any power that the state does produce comes from renewables sources, but mostly from its one-and-only nuclear plant. Nearly 50 percent of Connecticut’s net electricity generation came from Millstone, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Should Dominion Energy close the plant, electricity rates would likely climb higher — a painful outcome for ratepayers who live in a state that earned the distinction of being the most expensive place in the country in terms of energy costs.

However, not everyone agrees Millstone is in need of financial assistance. Stop the Millstone Payout, a campaign that sought to block the plant from receiving the carbon-free contracts, argued that the move amounted to a “giveaway” that would cost Connecticut ratepayers millions in higher electricity bills.

“Why should our residents and businesses pay hundreds of millions of dollars extra each year for a nuclear plant that is highly profitable and won’t even prove that it needs the money,” the campaign states, according to the Connecticut Post.

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Image courtesy of Dominion Energy

2 thoughts on “Biggest nuclear plant in New England threatening to shut down

  1. Massachusetts and Offshore Wind Systems: Massachusetts has a new energy law. The key provision in the 37-page law is a mandate for utilities to solicit long-term contracts with offshore wind system owners to bring at least 1,600 MW (nameplate capacity) into the state by June 2027.

    The turnkey capital cost of such wind turbine plants, plus transmission to shore, plus onshore grid modifications, would be at least $9 billion, and the electricity cost would be at least 16 – 18 c/kWh. See URL.

    In addition, utilities would also be required to solicit contracts for up to 1,200 additional MW of clean energy generation that could include a mix of hydro, onshore wind and solar.

    NOTE: New England wholesale prices have averaged about 5 c/kWh for steady, 24/7/365 electricity since about 2008, primarily due to:

    – Natural gas electricity; 50% of NE generation, low-cost (5 c/kWh), low-CO2 emitting, clean (no particulates), domestic fuel
    – Nuclear electricity; 26% of NE generation, low-cost (5 c/kWh), low-CO2 emitting, clean (no particulates), domestic fuel

    Construction would require huge sea-going tugs, cranes and other specialized vessels to assemble those 600-ft tall wind turbines. Europe has perfected that equipment, but the US does not even have it. Europe offshore wind capacity is 12,900 MW, versus the US 30 MW at end 2017.

    European companies, such as Vestas and DONG of Denmark, Siemens of Germany, etc., will make big profits. Wall Street banks will make loans, and financial managers will collect fees for managing the tax shelters for the multi-millionaire investors. New England ratepayers will pay for the outrageously high cost of electricity.

    Just another way for EU, etc., to hamstring the New England and US economy into higher cost structures and make them less competitive, all under the false flag of fighting global warming, and saving the world. See URLs.

    The US has plenty of domestic low-cost energy. It does not need to build expensive offshore wind systems.
    The EU imports most of its energy. It HAS to build expensive offshore wind systems.
    The EU likely thinks, if the US does not follow the EU into high-cost renewable energy, the US would have a competitive advantage, and attract energy-intensive businesses, which must be avoided at all costs.

  2. The ISO-NE reports, prepared by energy systems analysts with decades of experience, describes in great detail the operation of the grid during the cold weather period, with insufficient gas and fuel oil supply, and minimal solar most of the time, and near-zero wind on 5 days, and France taking advantage of the US by charge outrageously high prices for liquid natural gas (LNG), plus an outage of a major transmission line. It was a miracle rolling blackouts were avoided. Millions of New Englanders may not be so lucky next time.

    Legislatures in Massachusetts and New York State have been preventing the timely construction of new gas lines to provide more low-cost, domestic natural gas to New England, but these same Legislatures think paying 3 times the New England price for imported LNG is quite all right. Such stupidity will add to the US trade deficit. High energy costs will become even more of a headwind for the NE economy. See Appendix.

    See ISO-NE report: Cold Weather Operations December 24, 2017 – January 8, 2018

    – Generation from all renewables (wind, refuse, wood, landfill gas, methane) was 9%, 7% and 6% of total NE grid load on 24 Dec 2017, 1 Jan 2018, and 6 Jan 2018, respectively. See page 14.
    – Generation from about 2350 MW of PV solar at end 2017, on distribution grids, such as residential rooftop solar, varied from zero to 750 MW; was minimal during almost all hours of the period. Could not be relied on for electrical service at 99.97% reliability, 24/7/365. See page 48.
    – Generation from about 82 MW of PV solar at end 2017, on high voltage grids, such as large-scale, field-mounted solar, varied from zero to 26 MW, was minimal during almost all hours of the period. Could not be relied on for electrical service at 99.97% reliability, 24/7/365. See page 49.
    – Generation from about 1279 MW of wind turbines at end 2017 varied from a high of 1150 MW to lows of less than 100 MW on 5 days. Could not be relied on for electrical service at 99.97% reliability, 24/7/365. See page 50.
    NOTE: Wind, installed capacity was 1379 MW at end 2017, of which about 100 MW in Maine is connected to the Canadian grid, due to a lack of transmission to southern New England.
    – Imports significantly varied from 1500 MW to 4000 MW during the period. Could be partially relied for on electrical service at 99.97% reliability, 24/7/365. See page 42.

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