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A Third Reactor at Calvert Cliffs? An Update from a Public Hearing in Calvert County
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by Bob Boxwell | 2007

Billed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as “an information hearing about the application process,” the event was more of a pep rally for the power company

August 14 marked the opening round of the public involvement in the UniStar proposal to build a third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs. Though billed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as “an information hearing about the application process,” the event was more of a pep rally for the company. Most of the audience not wearing suits and ties (the official wear of the NRC) were employees of the company. The business community also showed up in force to support the perceived economic benefits of the proposed expansion. Unistar was depicted as a stalwart corporate citizen whose employees donated over 2,000 hours of community service annually. But for a company of 800 employees, I personally was not overly impressed.

Most of the pro-nuclear statements were just that—statements, not questions. And when legitimate questions were asked, frequently the answers were non-answers. An example was the question I posed: “What is the contingency plan for citizens living south of the plant for evacuation in case of an emergency, if the bridge is closed as it was in the late 1980’s?” The “answer” from Sheriff Mike Evans was that the county keeps informed of traffic flow and issues with the bridge. I felt like a little boy getting his head patted. “There, there, don’t worry (be happy), we have a plan. Can’t tell you what it is (as was the later response after the meeting to another Club member), but we have a plan.” Delegate Jamieson from Charles County even called nuclear power “green” energy. Glowing green, perhaps. Even if a nuclear plant does not produce greenhouse gases in the production of the power, it certainly produces it during the extraction and processing of the fuel.

Another old saw brought out was that it would reduce our dependence on foreign markets for our fuel. Oh, really? Seventy percent of nuclear fuel is imported.  And guess who is financing a large portion of this expansion? “Citizens of the Untied States” is an acceptable answer! UniStar, a consortium formed by Constellation Energy and the French company AREVA, has secured a pledge for $300 million in tax relief from Calvert County, and is demanding that the U.S. Department of Energy agree to back 100% of the debt.

Think a new reactor will lower our skyrocketing energy bills in Calvert County? Think again. The power produced here is sold on the open market (and by the way, 2015 is the date I am hearing before we might see any power coming out of this new reactor).

It boils down to economics. The company promises new jobs during construction and new positions once on line. With the deficits facing all levels of government, this is an enticing argument. So enticing the county will give them a 50% discount on their taxes the first fifteen years of production. Wow! What a precedent. Maybe we can locate the low-level nuclear waste facility here too, since I am sure that will provide jobs and tax revenue as well. We’ll need somewhere to put that waste, once Barnesville, South Carolina shuts down in two years.

Meanwhile, tons of radioactive spent-fuel rods continue to be stored on site. If the new reactor does go forth, Calvert County will have the largest nuclear facility in the country. Why do I feel like I have a target on my back?   


> 2007 Table of Contents


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