Calvert Residents Keep Reactor Plans Under Close Watch
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Looking for a sign of how strongly Calvert County residents feel about nuclear power?
On a recent evening, more than 300 people filed into a Solomons hotel conference room. They were not there to hear a decision on whether a new reactor should be built at Calvert Cliffs -- such a ruling is far off. Instead, the crowd turned out to learn more about how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would evaluate plans for a new reactor, once it has been fully and officially proposed.
Regulators walked the crowd through a PowerPoint presentation featuring 22 acronyms. One slide showed 16 boxes and circles linked by 17 arrows tracking the steps of auditing, scoping and public comment. It's an important process, of course, one that could lead to the construction of a third reactor at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant. But still, at home that night, must-see TV beckoned, and summer games were in progress on the county's golf courses and sports fields.
All of which raises a question: If Constellation Energy continues with its proposal to build another reactor at the Calvert Cliffs plant -- a project, expected to cost at least $4 billion, that could become the first reactor project in the United States in three decades -- who are the key players pushing the debate? What groups could residents join or support to participate in the process without surrendering too many evenings to what could be a years-long process of meetings and hearings?
Here is a lineup, including Web sites that detail the arguments for and against nuclear power. We start with the pro side, based on how turnout for the Solomons meeting reflected the support among Calvert residents.
Clean Energy Advocates
The Washington-based Clean and Safe Energy Coalition is co-chaired by Patrick Moore, a former Greenpeace official who now promotes nuclear as a clean source of energy. The organization says it has about 1,300 members nationwide, including engineers, professors, plant workers and others.
The group is funded by the Nuclear Energy Institute, a lobbying organization in Washington. The group turned out for the Solomons meeting and can be reached at 202-338-2273. People also can contact Constellation Energy directly at 410-783-2800.
Also bullish on nuclear is Calvert County's political leadership. The County Board of Commissioners already has offered 15 years worth of tax breaks to Constellation, valued at about $300 million, to build a new reactor. The department says a third reactor, even after the tax breaks, would provide $20 million a year in taxes and about 400 new, permanent jobs.
The department plans to have someone attend all meetings, and can provide updates. "We will be very, very intimately involved," said Linda Vassallo, director of economic development. The number is 410-535-4583.
Current Calvert Cliffs workers turned out at the Solomons meeting to show the flag. Workers can join the pro-nuclear power professional group, North American Young Generation In Nuclear. Local contact Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On July 13, Constellation Energy submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission the environmental report part of its application, and the company is expected to submit the rest by March, according to the NRC. The Web site noted above tracks the application and review process.
Larry Burkhart, an NRC project manager, can be reached at LJB3@nrc.gov or 301-415-1311.
Thus far the group has been a small band, but Norma Powers says that if Constellation Energy moves forward with plans for a new reactor, those concerned about environment and safety risks will band together and become louder.
She is concerned that a third reactor would increase nuclear waste stored at the plant, and increase potential risks from a terrorist attack or catastrophic accident. She notes that residents south of the Lusby plant have only one way out of Calvert if they need to evacuate because of an accident at the plant -- across the two-lane Thomas Johnson Bridge, a route that gets clogged on normal days.
"If there's an accident, we're going to get cooked if we live south of the power plant," she said at the meeting last month.
Powers can be reached at 410-326-6943, or you may direct e-mail to email@example.com. Bob Boxwell, a member of executive committee of the Sierra Club Southern Maryland Group, http:/
State and National Opponents
Public Citizen, a national organization founded by Ralph Nader, has staked out a strong position against the Calvert Cliffs expansion. That opposition is based on safety concerns, as well as the costs of government incentives Constellation and other nuclear power companies are requesting. Public Citizen's Energy Program organizer is Allison Fisher, at 202-454-5176 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Greenpeace's Jim Riccio, 202-462-1177 or email@example.com, doesn't seem to miss any nuclear public meetings ever held anywhere.