Eco-friendly nuclear

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Liberal groups such as Greenpeace and Ralph Nader’s Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG) have trained their crosshairs on a new target in Calvert County, Md. At issue is whether Unistar Nuclear, a joint venture of Constellation Energy Group and the French-owned company Areva, should build an additional nuclear reactor on the site of two existing reactors at the Calvert Cliffs plant in Lusby. Thus far, their efforts seem to have encountered little acceptance, though activists are hoping their rumblings will generate a national public backlash against the clean and safe source of energy that is nuclear power.

While it’s true that this technology brings inherent risks which must be carefully analyzed and addressed, we applaud the Calvert County Board of Commissioners for their enthusiastic support of the plan. The commissioners recognize the financial and environmental benefits of an additional reactor. Once the 1,600-megawatt, $4 billion reactor is built, an estimated 2.6 million customers could be served and the county would benefit from job growth as well as many millions of dollars in tax revenue. We hope Unistar’s application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is processed in a timely manner.

Anti-nuclear activists are reluctant to embrace the enormous potential of nuclear energy. Accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have given pause to the industry and partially explain why companies have been reluctant to file applications to build any new plants within the last three decades.

But a great deal has changed in 30 years. Science has yielded safer and cleaner methods for the production and disposal of nuclear energy, which, as a renewable source, is much more environmentally sound than non-renewable energies like coal and gasoline. It is ironic that leftist groups which normally consider themselves the embodiment of eco-friendliness are opposing rather than embracing this eco-friendly form of energy.

Nuclear energy certainly entails additional security risks. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the al Qaeda terrorist who masterminded the September 11 attacks, singled out nuclear plants as an attractive target for terrorists seeking to inflict damage on the United States.

The NRC is no doubt aware of these new threats and will require Unistar to provide adequate security measures, both aerially and on the ground, to ensure that the plant, a mere hour’s drive from Washington, is safe from a terrorist attack.

While acknowledging legitimate concerns, particularly with regard to plant safety, the NRC should cautiously proceed with the approval. This will pave the way for a cleaner, more efficient energy system for the region.

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