Conn. Millstone nuclear plant seen profitable for years -report

(Reuters) - Dominion Energy Inc's D.N Millstone nuclear power plant is expected to remain profitable through 2035, according to a study released by Connecticut energy regulators on Thursday, making it less likely the company will shut the reactors early.

The draft report concluded that Millstone’s profits are expected to amount to a net present value of between $1.3 billion and $2.4 billion under several scenarios from 2021 through 2035.

Millstone is one of several U.S. nuclear plants considering shutting before their licenses expire as cheap and abundant natural gas from shale fields keep power prices low, making it less profitable or, for some generators, unprofitable to keep the reactors operating.

Dominion spokesman Ken Holt said in an email that the report misses the mark on Millstone’s costs and revenues since it is “based on industry assumptions premised on a comparison with nuclear plants very much unlike Millstone.”

“The study correctly lays out the consequences Connecticut would face without Millstone: chronic reliability issues ... including blackouts, failing to meet the state’s carbon reduction goals, loss of substantial jobs ... and higher costs for customers,” Holt said.

Opponents of state support for Millstone said the plant does not need any help.

“It’s clear from the reports ... that Millstone pleading poverty is not believable,” said Dave Gaier, a spokesman at NRG, which owns gas-fired and other plants that could earn less revenue if the state subsidizes the reactors.

The state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority issued the report in response to an executive order by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy in July and a legislative act in June.

The order and act sought an assessment of Millstone’s economic viability and the role zero emission facilities like nuclear play in helping the state meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets, among other things.

The regulators did not make a recommendation on whether the state should do anything to help Millstone.

Instead, they sought comments on the draft and said they would prepare a final report no later than Feb. 1 that will address whether a solicitation process for nuclear facilities will be conducted.

Connecticut is one of several states exploring rules to keep reactors in service to preserve carbon-free energy, jobs, taxes and a more diverse resource mix. Other states looking at similar rules are Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

New York and Illinois adopted rules to subsidize some reactors in 2016.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Bill Trott