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Nuclear is NOT Renewable! Connecticut’s Lawmakers Taking our State Energy Policy in the Wrong Direction

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The CGA Joint Committee on Energy and Technology introduced legislation this week that would allow Dominion (the Virginia based corporation that owns and operates Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Waterford, CT) to apply for state energy subsidies under the “Class 1 Renewable” category of Connecticut’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).  The RPS is a critical program designed to ensure energy providers in our state procure a certain percentage of the electricity they sell through clean, renewable sources and energy efficiency, thereby helping to reduce our state’s carbon footprint and create good paying clean energy jobs.

The Class 1 tier of the RPS has historically been reserved for true clean energy sources, such as clean wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal.  Connecticut’s current RPS standard goal is to derive a minimum of 23% of our total in-state energy supply from renewable sources by the year 2020.  With only three years left to meet that goal, our state remains overly reliant on nuclear power and natural gas, while renewables make up less than 4% of our total energy mix.

SB 106 would allow Dominion to compete directly with true clean energy providers for Renewable Energy Certificates(RECs) under the RPS program.  These RECs are sold on a regional market to states that have less robust renewable programs and rely on those credits to help meet their own clean energy goals.

To be clear, nuclear power is not clean energy. Subsidizing existing nuke plants to compete with new development in clean energy totally defeats the purpose of this important program, and it sets a terrible precedent for other states to follow.

A thorough examination of the nuclear fuel cycle–from mining, enriching and transporting the uranium, to the construction of billion-dollar refineries and nuclear power plants, to the handling, processing and storage of nuclear waste–demonstrates that our dependence on nuclear power is energy intensive and creates signficant amounts of pollution.

It’s also important to remember that Millstone causes significant adverse impacts to the health of Long Island Sound. Millstone utilizes an outdated “once-through” cooling system that damages Long Island Sound and its marine ecosystems with deadly thermal pollution.  In fact, CCE and other groups concerned with LIS protection and restoration efforts have been working for almost a decade to see Millstone act as a good neighbor by upgrading to a closed-cycle cooling system, which is something Dominion has refused to do.  In 2012, Millstone was forced to shut down one of its two reactors for 12 days because the ambient water temperature in the Sound was higher than the plant’s safety standards would allow for.  This was the first time a U.S. nuclear facility had to halt its operations for such a reason.

Perhaps the most alarming part of this discussion is that Connecticut lawmakers do not seem to be concerned in the least about the fact that nuclear power leaves a legacy  of more than 10,000 years of radioactive waste with no permanent repository.  Spent nuclear fuel rods must remain on site for40-50 years or longer before they can be moved, as the radioactive fuel remains highly unstable for decades after use.  To make matters worse, the industry has a questionable safety record, including thousands of private, public and military accidents leading up to the present day.  Most recently, a tritium leak at New York’s Indian Point Nuclear Plant resulted in groundwater contamination problems that NYS DEC is still working to mitigate to this day.    Indian Point acknowledged the elevated risk in preliminary reports, finding “alarming levels of radioactivity” at three monitoring wells, including one where radioactivity levels reportedly increased by more than 65,000%.

The bill to include nuclear power as a renewable energy source under Connecticut’s RPS is a dishonest effort to fool Connecticut’s ratepayers into thinking we are moving forward on clean energy, when in reality, we would be subsidizing a dirty energy source of the past.  Nuclear power is  a costly, outdated technology that puts Connecticut’s residents and their environment at risk.  Allowing nukes to compete with real renewables is a raw deal for Connecticut, one which our lawmakers in Hartford seem all too eager to approve.

Think subsidizing nukes instead of investing in renewables is a bad idea? Contact the members of the CGA Energy and Technology Committee and tell them to Vote “NO” on SB. 106 today! https://www.cga.ct.gov/et/

 

 

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