At Calvert Cliffs, Let People Have Their Say

A U.S. Court of Appeals did Chesapeake Baysiders a favor when it ruled last week that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must slow down its speedy drive to renew licenses of the Calvert Cliffs' nuclear plant near Prince Frederick.

The court, convened in the District of Columbia, concluded that the NRC unfairly ignored opponents of re-licensing as it pushed ahead on a "fast track." The ruling was important not just for the Chesapeake Bay but for the entire country; Calvert Cliffs is the first nuclear plant to seek a new license, and utilities everywhere are watching to see what happens.

As a result of the ruling, outside experts and safety advocates may get the opportunity to have a look themselves at Calvert Cliffs and its checkered operating history. Too often, chummy NRC officials and utility representatives in obscure offices up in Rockville move forward with little or no public participation.

Several points ought not be overlooked: The licenses for the two reactors at Calvert Cliffs don't expire until 2014 and 2016.

So there's plenty of time for caution.

Secondly, the U.S. is on the verge of massive utility deregulation, which in the very near future will permit consumers to purchase electricity from sources that generate it more cheaply than do high-cost nuclear plants. Nuclear plants are being shut down around the country. Safety aside, do we in Maryland want to continue to rely on an economic white elephant well into the new millennium?

Then there are the unanswered questions about nuclear waste. The government promised long ago that it would find a national repository for the highly radioactive spent fuel removed from the cores of reactors. Yet these deadly wastes continue to be stored on concrete pads at plants around the country.

For Calvert County, these decisions are especially vexing given Calvert Cliffs' status as the county's biggest employer. A delay in re-licensing likely to result from the ruling gives planners a renewed opportunity to think about diversifying the economy.

Calvert County is enjoying bountiful growth from the relocation of naval facilities and other industries. Do people in Chesapeake Country really want to be dominated by one company, BG&E, with one product - nuclear power - in the new millennium? Might there be wisdom in working harder to attract the clean, high-tech industries flocking to northern Virginia?

Sailing by Calvert Cliffs, there's more than meets the eye. Thanks to a federal court, Marylanders will have more time to gaze into the future.

| Issue 46 |

Volume VII Number 46
November 18-24, 1999
New Bay Times

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