Connecticut lawmakers have proposed legislation to save in-state nuclear reactors by classifying them as green energy, which would allow them to better compete with heavily subsidized wind and solar power.
The Republican-backed bill allows nuclear power to participate in a state green energy power markets since it doesn’t generate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Last year, electricity prices in New England hit near-historic lows, forcing nuclear reactors to effectively pay to remain operational.
Unions, business groups and some environmentalists support the legislation, arguing that keeping the reactors running would save the local economy from collapse and help the environment.
Many environmentalists oppose the legislation, however, arguing it would make it harder for wind and solar power to compete.
“The introduction of legislation in Connecticut to put nuclear energy on a level playing field with other non-carbon emitting power generators is overdue but welcome news,” David Blee, executive director of the Nuclear Infrastructure Council, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The legislation would primary benefit the Millstone nuclear power plant, which faces competition from low-priced natural gas, slow growth in electricity demand and green energy policies. Nuclear reactors are expensive to operate and aren’t subsidized for producing CO2-free electricity.
Millstone generates almost 45 percent of all electricity used in Connecticut, meeting the power needs of almost 2 million Connecticut households. The plant’s two nuclear reactors prevent the emission of almost 6 million metric tons of CO2 annually.
“The fact is that nuclear energy produces 60 percent of the U.S.’s carbon free electricity,” Blee said. This contribution is in jeopardy without action to monetize this benefit and to recognize that — whether it is nuclear or renewable energy — all carbon-free energy generators should be treated equally.”
Republicans want to keep the Millstone Nuclear Power Station through 2045 when the plants operating licenses expire. Lawmakers hope this will keep the state’s CO2 emissions low and give it more time to construct additional reactors or other CO2-free forms of power generation.
The bill was put before Connecticut’s Senate earlier this month and received a favorable report, but Connecticut’s constitution closes the current legislative session on June 7th so action on the legislation will likely occur within a week.
The Connecticut legislation is the most recent move by state lawmakers to preserve nuclear reactors.
New York and Illinois both voted last August and December to bail out nuclear power plants in their states by raising power prices rather than let the reactors fail in. State legislatures in New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania are exploring similar options to support troubled nuclear reactors in their state.
“We are encouraged that a growing number of states – New York, Illinois and Ohio among them – have initiated legislative reforms to ensure that their flagship nuclear plants continue to provide carbon-free electricity along inherent economic benefits in terms of jobs and economical power,” Blee said.
In the past two years, six states have shut down nuclear plants, and “dozens” of other plants across the U.S. are facing challenging economic conditions, placing them at risk of imminent retirement. The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant announced on Tuesday it would shut down in 2019 due to these challenges.
“The North East has lost a lot of nuclear power plants already,” Dr. Jeff Terry, a professor of nuclear physics involved in energy research at the Illinois Institute of Technology, told TheDCNF. “Connecticut recognizes that you need some diversity to protect your own state. Some states in the U.S. are recognizing that they have to value nuclear somehow or they’re going to lose it.”
“We need this to prevent ourselves from ending up like Germany,” Terry said. “That’s the absoulte worse of all worlds where prices are rising as are carbon emissions.”
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