Dominion begins 'strategic assessment' of Millstone

Dominion's Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford is seen from the air on July 9, 2011.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Dominion's Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford is seen from the air on July 9, 2011. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Waterford — A spokesman for Dominion Energy said the company is moving forward with a "strategic assessment" of the Millstone Power Station and contacted ISO New England to understand options available to cease operations, if the company decides to do so.

Dominion spokesman Ken Holt said the company reached out to ISO New England, a nonprofit group that oversees power system planning, as part of the assessment it is conducting since the General Assembly failed to act on proposed legislation. Earlier this month, the state Senate passed a bill that would have allowed the state to conduct a study of nuclear power plants and then decide if a competitive procurement process for nuclear power should begin. The House did not move it forward.

Dominion has made no decision yet for the future of the Waterford power plant but has received confirmation from ISO New England that it can transfer its capacity supply obligation or pay a penalty to exit the market early, he said.

Vamsi Chadalavada, executive vice president and chief operating officer for ISO New England, said in a letter in response to Dominion that Millstone is obligated to supply power to the regional grid through May 2021, after Dominion participated in auctions administered by ISO New England.

But Dominion could transfer these obligations, prior to that date, through bilateral agreements or reconfiguration auctions, Chadalavada wrote.

Matt Kakley, a spokesman for ISO New England, said this step "would then trigger an ISO New England reliability review to ensure such an arrangement does not result in the violation of any reliability standards."

The letter further outlined the process for officially retiring the power plant.

A coalition opposed to the bill, called Stop the Millstone Payout, argued that Millstone has capacity obligations until 2021 and can't retire before 2022 because it missed the window to announce the retirement. 

“The evidence is clear: Millstone is the most profitable nuclear plant in the country and is not shutting down anytime soon," Matt Fossen, a spokesman for the group, said in a written statement. "Even if it did fall on hard times, Millstone would be able to seek financial relief through the existing process as managed by the ISO-New England, instead of demanding a special legislative payout from Connecticut ratepayers based on unsupported threats of closure."

But Holt said the letter from ISO shows the generator can make a decision at any time to shut down, regardless of capacity obligations.

Thomas P. Wohlfarth, senior vice president of regulatory affairs at Dominion Energy, mentioned in the June 13 letter to ISO New England that legislation is still a goal.

"We will continue to vigorously pursue legislative options for equitable treatment for nuclear power in Connecticut's clean energy procurement process," he wrote. "However, due diligence for our shareholders requires we undertake this strategic review."

State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, co-chair of the Energy and Technology Committee and a sponsor of the bill, said if there is an opportunity to raise a discussion of the Millstone bill in the special session, he would support that, but he was unsure if there is an avenue for discussing the bill in a special session focused on the budget.

"I don’t think this is something we should give up on, given the severity of the consequences of Dominion closing Millstone," he said. He added that he would continue to work toward a solution, so the state does not lose the equivalent of 50 percent of its power and the largest power plant in New England, and wouldn't suffer the economic impact that would come with the plant's closure. 

Waterford First Selectman Daniel Steward said Dominion is well aware that the community supports the company's efforts to enter the marketplace, and he expressed frustration with the House's lack of action.

"We support what Dominion is doing here," he said. "They are our largest taxpayer and one of our most important community components."

k.drelich@theday.com


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