The Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. is seeking a renewal of its federal
license to operate its two-unit Calvert Cliffs nuclear power station for
an additional twenty years—even though its original license will not expire
If successful in its request before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,
Calvert Cliffs will be legally allowed to operate until 2035 and 2038,
or nearly 30 years longer than the longest any atomic reactor yet has operated.
There are a myriad of reasons why the NRC should reject this license
renewal request, not the least because it is highly unlikely any reactor
effectively can operate for 60 years. But here are the top 10 reasons:
10. BG&E steadfastly has refused to implement even token
solar, wind and other renewable energy projects, much less the type of
aggressive energy efficiency programs common in many other parts of the
nation and world. BG&E simply refuses to plan for life without Calvert
Cliffs—a short-sighted approach that will ultimately cost both is shareholders
and ratepayers dearly.
9. Despite being only 23 and 20 years old respectively, the two
Calvert Cliffs units already need new steam generators, at a projected
cost of $300 million. Some observers believe the license renewal proposal
is simply a gambit to convince the Maryland Public Service Commission to
approve charging this cost to ratepayers, and that BG&E has not intention
of operating Calvert Cliffs more than its licensed 40 years, if that long.
Given nuclear industry operating experience, another new set of steam generators
can be anticipated if license renewal is granted, for another $300 million.
8. No reactor has yet operated more than 34 years. More than
two dozen reactors have closed early. Why does BG&E think Calvert Cliffs
will be any different?
7. BG&E is one of the most rabidly anti-union utilities in
the country. As the trained nuclear workforce dwindles (due to the fact
that no new reactors are being built, nor are likely to be built, and other
nuclear reactors close and workers find new, more promising careers), BG&E
is likely to find it harder and harder to recruit skilled, qualified workers.
6. Calvert Cliffs began the 1990s costing Maryland ratepayers
$600,000 daily in excess charges due to a lengthy shutdown caused by management
and safety problems. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the
root cause of the problems was an attitude at BG&E that "put power
production above safety." Indeed, Calvert Cliffs was on the NRC’s "problem
plants" list—its list of the worst nuclear reactors in the country--from
December 1988 until February 1992. How will Calvert Cliffs begin (and end)
the next decade?
5. Just like any other machinery, as nuclear reactors age, their
cost of operation and maintenance goes up. Parts must be inspected and
replaced more frequently (a big job in a highly radioactive environment).
But the temptation, in the upcoming environment of utility deregulation,
will be to cut corners and reduce maintenance in order to reduce costs.
Not only does this pose added stress on the reactor, and present added
danger to the public, it is a tactic that always backfires. (see above,
putting power production above safety).
4. Calvert Cliffs is just 40 miles from Washington, DC, the nation’s
capital. It is unlikely the siting of this complex would be approved today.
A severe accident at Calvert Cliffs could permanently destroy many of the
nation’s most historic treasures, not to mention forcing the relocation
of the nation’s government. According to a 1982 Sandia National Laboratories
report, an accident at Calvert Cliffs could cause 5,600 early deaths, 15,000
injuries, 23,000 cancer deaths, and about $90 Billion in damages (in 1982
dollars). This damage would occur over a 55-mile radius, which includes
3. The operation of Calvert Cliffs already has resulted in a
high-level nuclear waste dump on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. This
waste is placed in "dry casks" outside the Calvert Cliffs reactors. These
casks, made by Vectra Technologies, have been highly criticized for quality
assurance problems at other reactors (i.e., they have not met specifications).
Because there is no permanent place to put high-level atomic waste, this
waste will stay on the shores of the Chesapeake for the foreseeable future.
2. The extended operation of Calvert Cliffs would create still
more lethal radioactive waste, and there still will be no place to put
it. No nation has yet found a scientifically-defensible, publicly-credible
means of permanent nuclear waste storage. It is irresponsible and morally
bankrupt to continue to produce lethal materials with no means of permanently
isolating them from the environment.
1. In short, Calvert Cliffs suffers from all the problems of
the nuclear age: its economics are poor, it poses a safety hazard to the
entire region, it produces lethal waste with no storage solution in sight.
Instead of having its license extended, to further threaten the Chesapeake
Bay—the lifeblood of the mid-Atlantic states—Calvert Cliffs should follow
the lead of other aging reactors and close early. The atomic age has been
a failure and an international tragedy. The nuclear fuel chain that supplies
Calvert Cliffs begins with uranium mining on Native American lands, proceeds
to uranium processing, enrichment, and fuel fabrication—all of which contribute
to global warming and radioactive contamination of our nation. The fuel
chain ends at Calvert Cliffs, which someday must be decommissioned—at a
cost of more than $1 Billion, and which rises the longer it operates and
the more radioactively contaminated it becomes.
You can oppose the Calvert Cliffs license renewal by simply writing
to Dr. Shirley Jackson, Chair, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington,
DC 20555. You may also write to Maryland Senators Paul Sarbanes and Barbara
Mikulski at U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510.
For more information about Calvert Cliffs and other nuclear issues,
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
1424 16th Street NW, #404
Washington, DC 20036
202-328-002; fax: 202-462-2183