Millstone News

Why Connecticut’s DEEP Allows Millstone to Operate with Environmentally Destructive Once-Through Cooling: SCIENCE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT

Posted October 16, 2016

Since 1998, when environmental groups in Connecticut brought a court challenge to DEP’s allowance of “once-through” cooling at the Millstone nuclear power station located on Long Island Sound in Waterford (Fish Unlimited v. Northeast Utilities), DEP’s true motivation has been, so to speak, murky.

Since 1970, when Millstone’s first of three nuclear reactors first went online, the reactors’ once-through cooling systems have been responsible for the slaughter of billions of marine organisms, the release of a relentless 24/7 thermal plume and the discharge of unmonitored volumes of toxic and radioactive waste products to the Sound, which is a protected natural resource under the state’s Environmental Protection Act.

DEP has been empowered during the same period under the federal Clean Water Act to order Millstone to convert to a “closed” cooling system, which would eliminate virtually all of the environmental destruction and pollution of the once-through cooling.

A closed cooling system would eliminate Millstone’s thermal plume, destruction of billions more marinelife due to suction at the intake structures as well as unconscionable contamination of our public waters and public beaches with carcinogenic substances, including long-lived radioisotopes.

The obvious question begging for an answer is: Why has DEP (now “DEEP”) allowed this primitive, technologically-outdated, environmentally destructive cooling system to continue for 46 years – nearly half a century – despite widespread scientific concensus that a closed cooling system is infinitely preferable?

The answer has nothing to do with science.

The Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone, an intervening party in DEEP proceedings on Dominion’s most recent application to renew its federal permit under the Clean Water Act, exposed the true answer when it examined Dominion’s Director of Electric Environmental Services, Cathy Taylor.

Nancy Burton, the Coalition’s director, questioned Taylor about secret negotiations which she revealed took place between Dominion and DEEP which resulted in DEEP’s issuance of a draft permit which has enabled Dominion to keep operating Millstone’s once-through cooling system for an indefinite period of time (even though the Clean Water Act requires polluters to apply to renew their permits every five years).

Taylor testified that Dominion demanded as the ground rule of the permit negotiations that any consideration that DEEP order Millstone conversion to closed cooling was “off the table.”

As Taylor testified under questioning by intervenor Burton:

Burton: . . . . I gather that the negotiations would not have proceeded unless all the individuals participating had agreed to that [that the draft permit would not contain a determination that Millstone conversion to closed cooling was required under the Clean Water Act] as a ground rule.

Taylor: I believe that is correct.

Burton: And that ground rule was laid out when; the beginning of the negotiations?

Taylor: I don’t recall exactly when it was laid out, and it’s hard to say when you would point to the beginning of the negotiations. But certainly, in one of our early discussions, we indicated that we would not accept changes to that portion of the permit. . . . As I mentioned, going into the discussions for the stipulation, it was a ground rule that was important for us to set. Otherwise, we would not have pursued the negotiations.

Taylor also testified that then-Deputy DEEP Commissioner Amey Marella was present during the secret negotiations and that she acquiesced to Dominion’s demands. (Shortly thereafter, Marella was appointed DEEP’s Commissioner, the agency’s chief.)

Taylor further testified that once the permit was jointly drafted by DEEP and Dominion, the two parties entered into a secret Stipulation which defined and set the stage for the rigged proceedings on the permit which were to ensue and which led to “renewal” of the Clean Water Act permit on terms agreeable to Dominion. Critically, the permit allows Millstone to operate indefinitely with its once-through cooling system.

This testimony recited above is part of the official record, open to public inspection, at the website maintained by the Connecticut Judicial Department,, in an appeal brought to it by Burton, entitled Nancy Burton v. DEEP, HHD-CV-10-5036261-S. The appeal remains pending.The quoted testimony is taken from Transcripts, Volume 3, Pages 443-468, available for review on the Judicial Department website. It is discussed in more detail in Burton’s Reply Brief, Docket Item #216 (7/18/2016).