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Proposed Nuclear Expansion Under Fire

Environmentalists are concerned about a possible expansion of Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant.
Environmentalists are concerned about a possible expansion of Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant. (By James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)
By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 8, 2007

BALTIMORE -- State environmental and public health activists launched a "No New Nukes" campaign Tuesday to oppose a proposed third nuclear reactor that would nearly double energy production at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Southern Maryland.

The Maryland Public Interest Research Group released a report outlining the financial, environmental and public health costs of a new reactor at the Calvert County plant during a news conference outside the headquarters of Constellation Energy Group Inc., which owns the plant.

"Building a new reactor at Calvert Cliffs is expensive, damages public health and safety and harms the environment," Maryland PIRG policy activist Johanna Neumann said. "Maryland can definitely do better, and we should refuse to accept the construction of a new nuclear reactor."

If plans to add a third reactor advance at the power plant along the Chesapeake Bay in Lusby, Calvert will become the first jurisdiction in the nation to build a nuclear reactor since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. Calvert Cliffs has been operating since the early 1970s.

Local officials have been supportive of the expansion, which would be an economic development coup for Calvert. Last August, Calvert's county commissioners offered a series of tax incentives valued at $300 million to entice Constellation to build the reactor. State officials have said they would consider offering additional incentives.

Constellation intends to add a reactor at one of its plants but has not decided whether to expand the Calvert Cliffs plant or the Nine Mile Point nuclear plant in Oswego, N.Y., Constellation spokeswoman Tracy Imm said.

"We're very much in the evaluation stage," Imm said. "We are evaluating what it would take to build new nuclear in the U.S."

The proposal comes as the Bush administration has promoted nuclear power as one way to solve energy and environmental problems. The federal government is offering benefits to corporations to build reactors. In 2005, donning a white hard hat, President Bush toured Calvert Cliffs, becoming the first president to visit a nuclear power plant since Jimmy Carter a quarter-century before.

Construction of a third reactor could be an economic boon for Southern Maryland. Constellation estimates that the construction phase would employ some 2,000 workers and that the expansion would add as many as 500 full-time jobs at the facility.

"If we were to move forward, it's got economic and employment benefits for the community," Imm said.

The existing operation employs about 800 people, making it the largest private employer in Calvert and a major generator of tax revenue.

Calvert Cliffs' two nuclear reactors generate about 1,700 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about one-third of Maryland's homes and businesses. The third reactor would generate about 1,600 megawatts, nearly doubling the plant's capacity.

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