- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - As low energy prices put strains on operators of U.S. nuclear plants, some Connecticut lawmakers want to reduce any risk the Millstone Power Station will close by allowing it to sell power directly to the state.

While not threatening a shutdown, the owners of Connecticut’s only nuclear power plant have met with legislators and described their vulnerability to trends affecting the industry nationwide and expressed interest in bidding for state contracts.

State Rep. Lonnie Reed, a Branford Democrat on the Energy and Technology Committee, said Wednesday it is important to try to prevent the possible closing of the Waterford plant, which provides more than half of the electricity used in Connecticut.

“I really consider it a pre-emptive strike to deal with the realities of the energy economics,” she said of the legislation expected to be introduced this session.

The power generated by Millstone, which is owned by Virginia-based Dominion, is currently sold like any other commodity through hedge funds and Wall Street firms that add their own fees, spokesman Ken Holt said. He said it would ultimately benefit ratepayers to cut out the middleman.

“We like stability. We like a known return,” Holt said.

The legislation is expected to build on a proposal introduced late in last year’s General Assembly to allow more generators to sell power directly to the state. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection accepts bids from renewable energy producers to promote energy sources that do not involve fossil fuels.

Department spokesman Dennis Schain said the agency is open to bringing nuclear power into the mix.

“Given the significant amount of our region’s power produced by Millstone - and the fact that this power is produced without carbon emissions linked to climate change - this is an issue worthy of discussion in Connecticut’s General Assembly,” Schain said.

Several nuclear power plants have closed prematurely in recent years, often citing falling prices for electricity as a primary factor. The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts is to close in 2019 and the Vermont Yankee plant closed at the end of 2014.

“The price of natural gas is depressing prices for electricity across the country, especially in New England,” Holt said. “Millstone is not immune to those pressures.”

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