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  • Maryland Welcomes New Nuclear

    Last night, Heritage Research Fellow Jack Spencer and I drove down to Solomons Island, home of Calvert Cliffs’ 2 nuclear reactor stations – where Constellation Energy is proposing to build a third. It was the third of three hearings held by Maryland’s public service commission in which elected officials and the general public had their chance to voice support or concern about adding a 1600MW reactor – the equivalent of the power produced by the two existing reactors.

    Of the 25 people we heard speak, 21 favored building a third reactor while 4 opposed. It should be noted that we only stayed from 7-10 and the hearing finished at 11. More anti-nuclear activists could have been waiting for their turn to speak, but out of the 150 people attending the hearing, I’d guess that for every one person opposed to building a new reactor, there were 10 supporting it.

    Those advocating new build included elected officials, operators and engineers at the existing Calvert Cliffs plants, and ordinary, interested citizens of the county. One particularly interesting story came from Bobby Swann, a lifelong resident of Calvert Cliffs and adamant supporter of the third reactor. Retired now, Swann recalled living in the area when electricity wasn’t present and outhouses were more common than light switches. He reminded those in the audience of the comfort and dramatic increase in prosperity electricity brought to the community. He concluded by saying it was a privilege to have the two existing reactors at Calvert Cliffs provide the community with safe, clean and affordable energy, and it’d be a shame not to commence building a third. (He also mentioned that since he’s retired, he no longer wears socks. I’m not sure where that fits in, but I think it’s worth mentioning.)

    The opposition brought the same misperceptions about nuclear energy to the podium that anti-nuclear activists have been arguing for years. Chief among these arguments were that there is a safety and security problem, that nuclear is actually bad for the environment, and that the country should focus on wind, solar and other renewable energy sources rather than nuclear. I’ll address these three briefly.

    Safety & Security. The primary reasons the minority opposition posited for nuclear energy being a safety and security threat are based on pure misconception and ignorance. Two myths that need dispelling are: Nuclear power releases dangerous amounts of radiation into the atmosphere, and there is no solution to the problem of nuclear waste.

    As for radiation, by exploiting public fears of anything radioactive and not educating the public about the true nature of radiation and radiation exposure, anti-nuclear extremists can easily portray any radioactive emissions as a reason to stop nuclear power. However, when radiation is put into the proper context, the safety of nuclear power plants is clear.

    Nuclear power plants do emit some radiation, but the amounts are environmentally insignificant and pose no threat. These emissions fall well below the legal safety limit sanctioned by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

    Waste storage is one of the biggest impediments to an expansion of nuclear power in the public’s mind, and it was certainly echoed at this townhall meeting last night. We do have options for nuclear waste. Spent nuclear fuel can be removed from the reac­tor, reprocessed to separate unused fuel, and then used again. The remaining waste could then be placed in either interim or long-term storage, such as in the Yucca Mountain repository. For a more comprehensive answer of what nuclear waste actually is and how the problem can be resolved in the U.S., read this.

    There were also general inquiries about evacuation procedures, which the NRC details here. Even though no one was even injured, another concern was the possibility of another Three Mile Island. One speaker said it extraordinarily well by saying that comparing all nuclear reactors to TMI is like comparing all cruise ships to the Titanic. Accidents can still happen but a lot has changed – the probabilities are much, much lower.

    Bad for the Environment? There is sentiment from the anti-nuclear extremists that nuclear energy makes global warming worse because plants are built with fossil fuel and they emit too much heat. As we’ve said before, this is basically a witch-hunt. Whether the activists like it or not, the world runs on fossil fuel. Until the nation changes its energy profile–which can be done with nuclear energy–almost any activity, even building windmills, will result in CO2 emissions.

    The United States has not built a new commer­cial nuclear reactor in over 30 years, but the 104 plants operating today prevented the release of 681.9 million metric tons of CO2 in 2005, which is comparable to taking 96% of cars off the roads. If CO2 is the problem, emissions-free nuclear power must be part of the solution.

    Wind, Solar & Ethanol too! A bulk of the anti-nuclear agenda was promoting wind, solar and ethanol as a replacement for nuclear energy – not a complement. These were some of the most egregious arguments of the night. First, no one suggested it’s a zero sum game; just because we increase our nuclear fleet doesn’t mean we won’t need more energy. As far as I can tell, we’re going to be needing energy for a long time. So, if wind, solar and other renewable fuel sources are economically viable, so be it. It’s true, the costs of building a nuclear plant have been increasing, but wind and solar are having similar issues.

    The biggest misconception of last night, in my opinion, was the thought that wind and solar are going to solve all our energy problems. According to the Energy Information Agency (EIA) in 2006 wind accounted for 4% of our energy supply and solar accounted for 1%. But this is what really gets me going. People act like wind, solar and ethanol are some new phenomenon that has just been developed in the past few years. In reality, renewable energy sources have been receiving subsidies and tax credits since the ‘70s. The real problem is they can’t compete in the market with other sources of energy, even with these federal handouts.

    Now I’m not Nostradamus and I’m not pretending to be; wind and solar could very well be the future of America’s energy profile. But I do know this: It’s not feasible right now and we need all the supply of energy we can get, especially a CO2-free supply such as nuclear.

    Overall, it’s encouraging to know that the majority of the town, including the elected officials, recognizes the benefits a third reactor will bring to the community. Keep your eye out for updates.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Maryland Welcomes New Nuclear

    1. Thomas Gray, South, says:

      Mr Loris,,

      I think if you would do some research on the amount of electricity a single nuclear power plant produceses and put that number aside,,,

      do another research on the totol amount of electricity needed to operate ,,a refridgorator,,AC,heatpump,,hotwater heater electric cook stove, Now here you will come up with a totol dayly minamum nesasary amount of electricity,,,put that number aside

      now in your discusson with anyone trying to sell you wind and solor explain that most people get home fom work at or after dark the AC or heat pump is on they have to cook supper and take a bath,,

      now you present this person with the demand numbers for electricity and when he gives you his answer add the totol number of houses he is proposing to supply from solor and wind,,, AND THEN,,,

      ask how much land mass is needed for the solor or wind to get that number to supply these houses with electricity and I suggest you have these numbers ahead also,,

      In densly populated areas wind and solor are going to be very hard to use becouse they are low power and land use intensive on top of all their other negitives,

      I just don't think it can be done the numbers are wrong and the lies flow like tree leaves in the fall. I have seen to many calm dark snowy nights to be fooled by this lobby.

      Here in sc If I add the ac to the fridge and some lights my comp and coffie pot, buba thats a lot of exspensive panals on the house I don't own

      and I hear the batterys don't cut it at night for the ac,, no thanks,, tom.

    2. Nostradamus, Turkey says:

      …and there will be turbines, and these turbines will spin in the air and they will be popular among the masses, thus breeding more and more of themselves until they covered the earth. Finally, someone will do a cost benefit analysis and make the turbines unpopular but it will be too late for the turbines will have consumed the budget. A man made of oil and speculation will take the wealth from the turbines and live happily ever after, for about two more years because he was very old. And then the vision spun out of seeing…

      Sorry that wasn't my name or location…

    3. David Walters, San F says:

      Yes, it's good to see a *majority* of any group in the community in favor of more nuclear power. Well done.

      David Walters

    4. Thomas Gray, South, says:

      Ok lets say they try to build one,,,now come the environmentil inpact studys [ can't begin till next year or later ],,, animal habatat studys another year,,, law suits three or four more years plus appeals another year or more,,,and all of this is strung out end to end one action at a time,,,I'm gonna stop here before I say something that won't get posted. tom.

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