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Opposition to New Nuclear Reactor at Calvert Cliffs Continues
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by Bob Boxwell | 2008

The fight against the proposed new nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs in Lusby, Maryland (Calvert County) remains active. The Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition (ChesSEC) (http://www.safeenergymd.org) continues to develop opposition throughout Maryland while promoting energy conservation and renewable energy sources.

The fight against the proposed new nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs in Lusby, Maryland (Calvert County) remains active. The Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition (ChesSEC) (http://www.safeenergymd.org) continues to develop opposition throughout Maryland while promoting energy conservation and renewable energy sources.

Recently, Unistar Nuclear Energy1 filed another partial application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and a public hearing, which the company’s cheerleaders at NRC will hold, is to occur on March 19. In December, Unistar submitted the required request for a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” to the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC).

Both the Maryland Public Interest Research Group (MD PIRG) and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) have filed petitions to intervene in the PSC process. The groups intend to raise concerns about impacts of the proposed, large, and new reactor on the environment, public safety, and local energy prices.

In January, representatives of ChesSEC embarrassed Calvert County officials in a public meeting by asking where the emergency potassium iodide capsules required by federal homeland security legislation are located. They didn’t know the answer—the same response we received when we asked other specific questions.

Constellation Energy executives frustrated Maryland regulators on February 6 by skipping a hearing to discuss costs that might be passed on to consumers due to deregulation, highlighting a standoff between the state and the utility over rising energy costs. Major among these “stranded costs” is the potential $5 billion that will be needed to dismantle the two Calvert Cliffs reactors at the end of their useful lives.

On Valentine’s Day, ChesSEC staged a rally at Constellation Energy corporate headquarters in Baltimore. Dressed in red and pink, activists, students, and friends facilitated a moving picket, street theater, and leafleting against Unistar’s proposed new reactor on the Chesapeake Bay. 

ChesSEC includes a growing list of advocacy organizations: Beyond Nuclear, Green Party (MD), Maryland PIRG, NIRS, Public Citizen, and Sierra Club. Some heavy hitters in these groups—including award-winning activist Paul Gunther2are making Unistar nervous.

The company has stated that they won’t do the project without billions of dollars in federal loan guarantees. It has further stated that if the atmosphere (an ironic choice in terms) is not friendly in Maryland, they will pick up their bags and move to New York. (Shall we buy them their bus tickets?).

Currently, the existing Calvert Cliffs plant is having trouble keeping up with a requirement to upgrade their pumping system and has received a six-month extension to do the work. This is not the response you or I would get if we asked Uncle Sam for an extension on filing anything.

But if Unistar is concerned about the Maryland state government not being friendly, they can always turn to the Calvert County commissioners. I, too,  might be friendly to a company that agreed to cover a $6 million deficit in my budget. Here’s how this arrangement works.

When the Maryland government deregulated the electric power industry in 1999, it took away the power of the County to tax its transmission lines. This reduced Calvert County’s revenue some $8 million (proof that Maryland government leaders didn’t shaft only the consumer by deregulating the industry). To fill this local hole, the State had been granting $6 million to Calvert County annually. Given the current budget deficit, however, the State has withdrawn this grant. So the County asked Unistar for the money and Unistar said, “Yes!” (as would anyone who had a huge project on the table needing governmental cooperation). This is all very neat, all very legal, and all very suspicious.

 

Action: Stop Overconsumption

Considering current power consumption in Maryland and the projected shortages, we have to do something— but something that isn’t nuclear. Power shortfalls may be just around the corner, but the power production by the proposed new reactor is not a safe or fiscally sound solution. Regardless of how many corners the NRC cuts, we would not, realistically, see a single megawatt from this project until 2015.

The real answer, of course, is to stop our massive over-consumption of energy. Viable options to reduce electricity consumption and atmospheric pollution do exist. Recently, the Sierra Club joined with the American Solar Energy Society to advocate that “an aggressive, yet achievable increase in the use of energy efficiency and renewables alone can achieve a 60 to 80 percent reduction in U.S. global warming emissions by 2050.”

American ingenuity can create safe, clean energy and also vastly expand conservation through development of efficient appliances, energy-saving lighting, and innovative building techniques. These methods will be a far cheaper means to ensure enough electricity than building expensive reactors and creating more radioactive waste. Indeed, Sierra magazine senior editor Paul Rauber found that “a dollar spent on energy efficiency would save seven times more carbon dioxide than a dollar spent on nuclear power.”

Closer to home in Maryland, we must encourage this year’s passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act (SB309/HB 712), which is designed to reduce power plant greenhouse gas emissions, clean up the Chesapeake Bay and protect our health while maintaining energy availability.

So the fight continues. To get involved, contact Bob Boxwell at bobboxwell@hotmail.com or Maryland PIRG via johanna@marylandpirg.org. Also, call or write your legislators and Governor Martin O’Malley (via 1-800-811-8336 or governor@gov.state.md.us) to express your opposition to new nuclear reactors and your support for energy conservation.    n

 

1Constellation Energy, which replaced Baltimore Gas and Electric (BG&E), and French-government-owned EDF comprise Unistar.

 

2Paul Gunter’s award was the Jane Bagley Lehman Award from the Tides Foundation. According to the foundation’s web site, these awards “seek to recognize individuals who have exhibited a deep commitment to the public interest and whose work demonstrates innovative approaches to social change. The 2007 awards specifically sought individuals whose anti-nuclear work reaches wide audiences and successfully bridges the gap between grassroots activists and decision-makers.” 

> 2008 Table of Contents

   
   

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