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Licensing Board Conducts Session in Calvert
Prince Frederick, MD - 1/30/2012
By Marty Madden
The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) conducted an all-day hearing Thursday, Jan. 26 in Prince Frederick. The three-judge panel heard testimony regarding a challenge to the possible granting of a license for construction of a third reactor at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby.
The ASLB is an independent body within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The specific challenge at the hearing was the opposing group’s contention that the NRC staff’s draft environmental impact statement (EIS) failed to adequately analyze and discuss alternatives to the proposed reactor.
The challengers hoping to kill the Calvert Cliffs 3 project are the Nuclear Information and Resource Services (NIRS), Beyond Nuclear, Public Citizen Energy Program and Southern Maryland Citizens Alliance for Renewable Energy Solutions.
From the outset, the opposition was beset with a major problem. Their main witness—wind and solar power expert Scott Sklar—was not only not in Prince Frederick, he was in midair. Michael Mariotte, NIRS’ executive director, told the panel that Sklar had been in Central America and was in the process of flying back to the United States. In an opening statement, Mariotte said the EIS submitted by NRC staff “underestimates” potential alternative sources of energy. He noted that several entities in Maryland are building solar power facilities. Among those entities is Constellation Energy Group, the owners and operators of the existing Lusby plant. “Maryland state law demands renewables,” said Mariotte. It’s clear the goal is feasible, it’s attainable. The NRC is under the guise that the Maryland law will either fail or never be implemented.”
Mariotte noted that the timeline for starting construction of the third reactor has been pushed back to 2017 and no design plan for the facility is available. “There is time to assess wind and solar’s potential,” said Mariotte. He also mentioned that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley [D] is planning to submit legislation to expand offshore wind power.
Mariotte also dismissed the contention that renewable energy sources such as wind and solar did not provide “base-load power.” He said Germany was successfully using base-load power from non-nuclear, “small scale systems” that were more reliable.
“When this plant [Calvert Cliffs] is down for repairs and refueling, they have nothing to replace it,” said Mariotte. He noted the Calvert Cliffs 3 applicant, UniStar, only provides nuclear power. “This company has nothing else it can sell,” said Mariotte.
The ASLB judges—Ronald M. Spritzer, Gary S. Arnold and William W. Sager—spent most of the session grilling two NRC employees involved in the drafting of the EIS.
“There are still barriers to building offshore wind,” said NRC staff member Andy Kugler, who added there were no proposals for such a facility in Maryland. “There’s nothing on the horizon.” Kugler told the panel the transmission and storage of wind power also poses a problem. “Incorporating wind and solar is a challenge for the grid operators.”
Other problems with wind and solar are caused by their variability. Kugler also indicated it would take a significant parcel of land for a wind farm that could produce enough kilowatts to match the potency of a nuclear power plant. The amount of land needed for wind and solar power generation led NRC officials to conclude then renewables were not environmentally preferable to nuclear power.
“We tried to give as much credit as we could to wind and solar,” said Kugler, who affirmed the EIS is in line with Maryland officials’ estimates for renewable energy. “It’s an intermittent source, not base-load.”
During the ASLB’s questioning of UniStar’s witnesses, consultant Stefano Ratti disputed the interveners’ contention that wind and solar power were cheaper than nuclear power. Ratti affirmed that government incentives were prompting vendors to build wind and solar facilities. Another consultant, Septimus Vanderlinden, admitted Germany was phasing out nuclear power from its energy policy but indicated the European nation was taking a gamble by doing so. “They [Germany] are looking to go totally green,” said Vanderlinden, who mused that storage of renewable energy may prove the Germans’ undoing. “They are on that mission.”
Documents related to the Calvert Cliffs 3 project are available on the NRC’s web site at www.nrc.gov
Contact Marty Madden at email@example.com
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