Exelon’s Chuck Merritt shows Calvert Cliffs’ visitors the power plant’s new robust building designed to address disaster preparedness.

Lusby, MD  – Local residents got a glimpse of some of the safety measures used and emergency preparation in place at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby. The public was invited to Calvert Cliffs Community Information Night Thursday, Sept. 10.

The power plant is majority owned and operated by Exelon Generation. While the event did not include giving the public access to the reactor areas, a brief bus tour did provide the curious with a glimpse at two ancillary structures that address major plant safety concerns. The bus drove past the storage units holding the dry casks containing spent nuclear fuel. The casks will be moved offsite if and when the federal government establishes a spent nuclear fuel repository.

Residents also got to see a fortified building away from the dual reactors where mobile emergency equipment is stored. According to Chuck Merritt of Exelon, the purpose of the storage and equipment is to avert a disaster aftermath similar to what occurred in Japan in 2011. In March of that year an earthquake and tsunami led to the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant.

“We put together a bunch of portable equipment, all diesel-powered,” said Merritt. “It allows us to shut the plant down safely.” The stored equipment includes bobcats, tanker trucks and safety pumps. Routine maintenance is performed on the machinery every six months, Merritt stated.

There were two developments last year at the plant that raised concern. One was the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) decision to increase oversight of Calvert Cliff’s second reactor. That decision was based on finalization of a white (low to moderate) inspection finding. The concerns were raised due to a radiation monitor that wasn’t providing accurate readings. Plant manager Mark Flaherty told The Bay Net the monitor problems had been “self-identified” and the corrective actions Exelon took were deemed effective. The Unit 2 reactor again has normal regulatory oversight.

The second development was a report by Fox News based on a random visit a reporter made to the plant last summer. The visit was videoed and showed no security guard at the plant gate and no security personnel stopping to ask the reporter where he was going once he was past the gate.

“There’s a lot of security you can’t see and some you can,” said Flaherty, who stated the NRC determined the news agency did not verify any gaps in security.

On Sept. 15, under the watchful eye of the NRC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Calvert Cliffs will be conducting an emergency preparation exercise. “It will be a ‘hostile action drill,’ ” said emergency preparedness specialist Rick Woods. Officials from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), along with local law enforcement will be involved in the exercise. Woods said plant personnel conduct four drills a year. The federally evaluated exercise takes place once every two years.

The public will receive exercise assessment details from FEMA and the NRC later next week.

When asked about ongoing concerns that Calvert Cliffs and the expanding Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas Plant a few miles south in Lusby pose a dual target for terrorists, Woods stated “we [Calvert Cliffs] have always had a Cove Point contingency.”  Woods pointed out that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) did an impact assessment on Calvert Cliffs during its analysis of the Cove Point Liquefaction Project approval process. “It [DNR] did not change the contingency plan.” According to Woods, “there’s a direct line from our control room to their [Cove Point’s] facility.”

While information night attendees got to see the business side of the multi-million dollar plant, there was also a measure of fun—the Foundation 4 Heroes provided superheroes for the children to visit and pose for pictures with—plus there was food from Hardesty Haven Catering.

“It’s a clean industry and it’s brought great people into our community,” said Bob Priddy of Solomons, a county resident who well remembers Calvert before the plant was built in the 1970s. “It’s a nice addition.”

For more information about Calvert Cliffs visit www.exeloncorp.com/PowerPlants/calvert/

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com