CBIA BizCast: Dominion’s Millstone Powers Connecticut
Since 1970, Waterford’s Millstone Power Station has been a key part of Connecticut’s energy supply.
Millstone currently supplies about 50% of Connecticut’s energy needs, and more than 90% of the state’s clean power, according to Millstone vice president Michael O’Connor.
“Clean describes the emissions part of our business,” O’Connor told the CBIA BizCast. “We don’t put out any carbon, no carbon emissions.”
“The goal was to have a clean energy grid, and we do fit into that.”
Millstone was acquired by Virginia-based Dominion Energy in 2001 after Connecticut’s energy system was deregulated.
The company has a contract with the state of Connecticut for half of its output through 2029.
“Our mission is to reliably produce nuclear power for our customers,” O’Connor said. “It’s got to also be affordable, and it’s got to be increasingly green.”
O’Connor has been with the company for more than 20 years, after serving in the U.S. Navy.
“I grew up on Long Island. I came to Connecticut on a submarine,” he said. “When I got out of the military, I settled here in Connecticut. My wife’s from Groton, and we raised two daughters here.”
O’Connor said that like himself, a lot of Millstone’s 1,000 employees come from a naval background.
“The Navy’s got a great nuclear training program,” he said. “They use a lot of nuclear power for propulsion on their ships, they’re safe and reliable.”
“And we’ve been able to translate that into safe, reliable operations in the commercial nuclear power business.”
O’Connor also said that Millstone has good relationships with universities like UConn, UMass Lowell, and particularly Three Rivers Community College in Norwich.
Three Rivers has a two-year nuclear technologies degree program, with some Millstone workers serving as professors.
“We have some great ties to the curriculum, and they really learn what they need to learn to be an employee at Millstone,” O’Connor said.
“It’s a great source of workforce for the power station.”
Focus on Safety
O’Connor said that safety is the number one priority for everyone at Millstone and Dominion.
“We want employees to go home in better shape than they came to work in,” he said. “We watch out for each other.”
O’Connor said Millstone focuses on four areas for safety: nuclear, radiological, industrial, and environmental.
He said the entire industry learned valuable lessons after the 10979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.
That included putting in new equipment, and changing emergency response communications with local, state, and federal officials.
“The nuclear energy industry learns from itself and feeds back to itself what we should do better,” he said. “So we continuously learn how to do our jobs better.”
O’Connor said a key piece of Millstone’s safety and success is their relationship with the town of Waterford.
“Since Millstone Power Station’s parked right on the edge of Long Island Sound, we make sure that we have control of the environment around us,” he said.
He said Millstone and the town have become almost synonymous with each other over time, with many of their employees living locally.
“The town and the station have worked together to make sure any citizens’ concerns are addressed with how we maintain and operate the plant, control the traffic, and what’s done at the facility in the future,” he said.
“We think we’ve been a good neighbor.”
O’Connor highlighted Dominion’s core values of safety, ethics, excellence, embracing change, and being one company.
He said those values have remained consistent throughout years, with embracing change added most recently.
“We want people to think differently,” O’Connor said, adding that to improve safety and efficiency, the business demands innovation.
That is highlighted by the increased use of drones and submersibles to get to areas where it may not be as safe for a person.
The company even turned to the show Shark Tank to inspire what they call regional spark tank discussions.
The concept rewards employees who come up with innovative ideas and beneficial practices.
“As technology evolves, and there’s more innovation available in other industries, we’ve allowed our employees to go seek those out and propose those suggestions here,” O’Connor said.
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