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Opinion: CT senate candidate Ryan Fazio wants to build more nuclear reactors

Stamford Advocate logo Stamford Advocate 9/9/2020 By Sean Goldrick
Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, New York. © Morgan Kaolian AEROPIX / File Photo

Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, New York.

Ryan Fazio wants to build you a nuke. Yep, that’s right. Fazio, the Republican candidate for state senate in Connecticut’s 36th district — Greenwich, north Stamford, and New Canaan — has at the top of his power plan for Connecticut building new nuclear power plants: “As your state senator, I will advance an all-of-the-above clean energy strategy that incorporates more nuclear, hydroelectric, and other affordable power sources to our grid.”

“More nuclear ...”? Does he want to replace the Indian Point, the nuclear power plant on the Hudson River just minutes’ drive from Greenwich that’s shutting down next spring, with a new nuke in Connecticut? Perhaps he wants to build a second Shoreham nuclear power plant, the Long Island nuke that was shut down due to overwhelming opposition by residents without ever delivering a single watt of power. Fazio thinks that Connecticut, the third smallest and fourth most densely populated state in the nation, is the perfect place to build more nuclear? Before we hand him the keys to the reactor, let’s review what nuclear has done to us.

While nuclear power plants don’t emit carbon, they do emit radiation. According to the environmental advocacy organization, Riverkeeper, the reactors at Indian Point routinely emit airborne and liquid radioactivity, including 100 different isotopes, Strontium-89, Strontium-90, Cesium-137, and Iodine-131. Humans ingest them either by inhalation, or through the food chain (after airborne radioactivity returns these chemicals to earth). In 2016, a major leak occurred at Indian Point that resulted in tritium seeping into the groundwater. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the radiation leak “alarming,” and environmentalists described it as “uncontrolled.” One well near the plant detected the presence of more than 8 million picocuries per liter of radioactivity versus the standard of 12,300.

Our downwind location from Indian Point has resulted in thyroid cancer rates in Fairfield County substantially higher than the national average — and rising. Thyroid cancer’s only known cause is exposure to radiation. Thyroid cancer rates are higher in Westchester County, and higher still in Putnam County. The closer one gets to Indian Point, the higher the cancer rates. Residents of Connecticut’s New London County, in which the aptly named Millstone nuclear power plant is located, also suffer high rates of thyroid cancer. In 2012, the federal government initiated a five-year study of cancer incidence in New London County and Fairfield County, but shut it down suddenly in 2015 with little explanation, and no release of data.

The Shoreham nuclear power plant across Long Island Sound from us, built at a cost of more than $6 billion in the 1980s, representing a 10,000 percent cost overrun from its original budget, shut down without ever producing power. But it did produce a massive debt for the people of Long Island, a billion dollars of which they’re still paying off. All but two of New England’s nuclear power plants have been shut down- Millstone and the Seabrook plant in New Hampshire.

It’s curious that Fazio is so critical of Connecticut Democrats’ energy policy, because Gov. Ned Lamont recently acceded to demands from Republican legislators and Millstone’s owner, Dominion Energy, who strong-armed Connecticut into agreeing to a 10-year contract to keep Millstone’s high-cost nuclear energy flowing. Dominion threatened to shut down Millstone if it didn’t receive a bail-out, though the company refused to open its books to the General Assembly for inspection to prove it was nearly insolvent. The bailout gave them 82 percent of the state’s total renewable energy allowance, crowding out lower-cost and infinitely safer solar and wind projects.

Research shows that the unsubsidized levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of large scale wind and solar is a fraction of the cost of new nuclear generators. So nuclear power, which Fazio wants foist on Connecticut ratepayers, is actually not an “affordable power source” at all, but one that can only operate with massive subsidies.

And given that nuclear power plants demand massive quantities of water to cool their reactor cores, a new nuclear plant would have to be built on the Connecticut shoreline. So would you like a new nuke In Norwalk? Shall we foist one onto the people of Bridgeport? Will you feel comfortable with a nuclear reactor in Connecticut even closer to us than Indian Point?

So, high and rising thyroid cancer rates, uncontrolled leaks of tritium into the groundwater, taxpayer subsidies to Millstone for its economically unviable, uncompetitive, and expensive nuclear power, all crowding out wind and solar power, real clean energy that continues to achieve dramatic reductions in cost of generation. But nuclear tops the list on Ryan Fazio’s energy plan?

Let’s keep tritium out of our groundwater, and Ryan Fazio out of the Connecticut state senate.

Sean Goldrick served for four years as a Democratic member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation. He lives in Riverside.

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