Hearings Set on Building Reactor

By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Maryland Public Service Commission is holding several public meetings this month, beginning tomorrow, about whether a third reactor should be built at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby.

The reactor could double the power-generating capacity of the Calvert County plant. Clearing the regulatory hurdles is a multiyear process, and construction is not expected to begin before late 2009.

UniStar Nuclear Energy, a joint venture between Constellation Energy and EDF, a European energy group, filed an application in November with the Public Service Commission for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, a license given to a public utility by a state regulatory agency to build.

Several environmental and anti-nuclear groups, as well as residents, have filed testimony with the commission and are expected to testify at the hearings. The proposed reactor has won the support of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners, major steps in the nearly six-year federal, state and local application processes.

The Lusby plant, on the western shores of the Chesapeake Bay, has been generating energy for more than 30 years. In 2000, it became the first nuclear power plant in the country to receive 20-year extensions of its operating licenses from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The extensions are evidence of the plant's strong safety and environmental record, said Wilson H. Parran (D-Huntingtown), president of the Board of County Commissioners.

He said Constellation has been a good corporate citizen of the county. In addition to bringing jobs, the plant also "creates a tax base in Calvert County that keeps [residential tax rates] as low as they are," Parran said.

Last year, the plant generated $17.2 million in property tax revenue for the county. If a third reactor is built, the company would receive a 50 percent property tax credit for 15 years. Even then, the reactor would mean an additional $20 million a year in revenue, Parran said.

Some residents have been cautioning against building the reactor.

In written testimony to the PSC, William Johnston III, 70, of Huntingtown said county officials are "putting their faith" into UniStar and have not fully considered all options. "We are asking for a one-year stay so we can look at what has happened with alternative energy and other things," Johnston said.

He also mentioned the loss of forests and wildlife and asked for more research about the project and renewable energy possibilities. In written testimony, two other residents questioned whether the plant's nuclear waste can be safely stored and how the facility would handle an act of terrorism.

"I don't think people realize the significance of what we are doing when we build this stuff," Johnston wrote.

Issues dealing with radiological health and safety fall under federal jurisdiction and will be included in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's environmental report, which is expected next year.

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