Nuclear Regulators Investigate Delayed Seabrook Upgrade
Federal regulators have opened a new safety investigation at Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, focused on a component that’s become an obstacle to a major new transmission line in Maine.
The New England Clean Energy Connect power line now being built in western Maine is the successor to Eversource’s defunct Northern Pass, aiming to bring significant Canadian hydropower into New England – about as much as Seabrook produces in nuclear.
It’s set to come online in 2023. But before it can be completed, the project’s developer, Avangrid, needs Seabrook’s owner, NextEra, to upgrade a substation it operates to accommodate the new line in Maine.
The substation connects Seabrook to the regional power grid and needs more capacity to handle the addition of the new electricity onto the system. In federal regulatory proceedings, Avangrid, the parent company of Central Maine Power, has accused NextEra of dragging its feet on the work.
So-called legacy generators like gas and nuclear plant owners have long opposed importing Canadian hydropower, which has the potential to lower electricity prices and cut into their profits. The Maine transmission line and Seabrook would compete on the energy markets as some of the region’s largest power sources.
Now, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has stepped in to investigate the substation. They say its current condition could cause unexpected shutdowns at Seabrook. The plant’s federal license was recently extended through 2050.