Millstone shutdown is a sign of broader power problem caused by climate change
WATERFORD — Last month’s unprecedented 12-day shutdown of part of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station sent a shudder through the nuclear energy world.
Caused when the seawater used to cool the plant’s generating Unit 2 became too warm, it was the first time any U.S. nuclear plant was shut down because of intake water temperature problems.
Nuclear energy officials were concerned, but “I don’t know if we would say ‘surprised,'” said Richard MacManus, Millstone’s director of nuclear safety and licensing. He spoke as he stood alongside Niantic Bay, taking in the panoramic view of the massive Millstone facility and Long Island Sound, its source of water.
The shutdown capped a season of power reductions and other difficulties at several of the nation’s power plants — including non-nuclear ones — caused when summer heat and drought compromised the vast amounts of water needed to cool them. It has also set in motion a cascade of other potentially debilitating effects, all of which point to the likelihood that climate change has placed part of the U.S. power grid at risk.
Curiously, the industry and its watchers had seen it coming – for decades.