The people who work at the Ginna nuclear power plant and the people who generally oppose nuclear power are probably never going to agree on the future of the facility. That much was apparent at a hearing yesterday on a proposed contract for Rochester Gas and Electric to temporarily prop up the economically struggling plant. The State Public Service Commission ordered RG&E to negotiate with Ginna and is currently reviewing the contract.
The plant's owner says that Ginna has been losing money, and that without the support agreement, it would move to close the plant. The PSC agreed with Ginna officials that closing the plant would jeopardize the region's energy supply until RG&E finds a replacement source.
During yesterday's hearing, a large contingent of plant employees said that shutting Ginna down would mean the loss of a large, reliable, carbon-free electricity source for the region and state. And they said that the closure would have economic ripple effects: local governments would lose millions of dollars each year in tax revenues; and 700 people would be out of good jobs — which, they said, would mean that area businesses would lose customers and that the Wayne County United Way would lose its biggest source of contributions.
Nuclear opponents said that Ginna should be replaced, as soon as possible, with electric grid transmission improvements, greater emphasis on energy efficiency projects, and greater deployment of renewable energy technology. They also questioned why residential and business customers should pay to support Ginna, when RG&E knew that the plant was headed for financial trouble and didn't plan accordingly. In particular, they stressed the effect that the rate increase included in the agreement could have on the region's poor.
"It's just another classic bailout where the public is being asked to pay for the blunders" of a big corporation, Crescenzo Scipione, a local activist working with an anti-nuclear coalition, said before the hearing.
Some of the speakers aren't affiliated with one side or the other, and a slightly different thread emerged in their comments. They said that RG&E and its corporate parent, Iberdrola, should shoulder the cost of keeping Ginna running, since RG&E hasn't planned for any alternative.
Separate from the hearing, some institutions and business representatives have asked the PSC to moderate the impact of the support agreement. University of Rochester President Joel Seligman submitted comments saying that the school and the University of Rochester Medical Center could see an increase in electricity costs of up to $3 million annually.
Greater Rochester Enterprise president and CEO Mark Peterson wrote to the PSC to say that a significant number of businesses that belong to the organization are worried that the agreement could impact them. They believe that the proposed rate increase could necessitate job reductions or relocation out of state, he wrote.