Intervenors Submit New Challenge to Calvert Cliffs-3 in NRC Licensing Hearing

Groups participating in the federal licensing process of the proposed Calvert Cliffs-3 nuclear reactor on the Chesapeake Bay filed a new contention late Friday, June 25, 2010.

The contention charges that the NRC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) undercuts assertions filed in the license application by the proposed reactor’s owner, UniStar Nuclear, that electricity from Calvert Cliffs-3 would be produced for 3.1 to 4.6 cents per kilowatt/hour. According to UniStar’s license application, that cost number was derived from a 2004 study that put the construction cost of a reactor at $1200-1800 per kilowatt.

But the DEIS—using more recent estimates supplied by UniStar—put the estimated construction cost 300-500% higher, at $7200-9600 per kilowatt.

“UniStar has attempted to mislead the NRC—and the public—about the costs of Calvert Cliffs-3 both in absolute terms and in comparison to other possible sources of electricity,” charged Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, one of four organizations participating in the NRC licensing hearings.

“UniStar uses these grossly underestimated cost projections eight separate times in its application when comparing projected costs of electricity from Calvert Cliffs-3 to alternatives like wind and solar power,” explained Mariotte. “Even if it thought those numbers were correct when they first submitted their application in 2007, they are now on their sixth revision of the application and they’ve never updated those numbers. That’s probably because they know no one in Maryland would support the reactor if they were aware how much electricity from it would cost.”

The groups also pointed out that the DEIS—as well as UniStar’s license application—completely ignores the potential contribution of offshore wind power to the region’s electrical system, even though a company called Bluewater Wind has proposed building a 600 Megawatt wind farm off the Maryland coast, as well as large wind farms off the New Jersey and Delaware coasts.

The groups further charged that the DEIS failed to even attempt to quantify the possible contribution of solar photovoltaic power in the region, and that the DEIS failed to account for the decline in electrical demand in the region over the past three years and the impact of energy efficiency programs—thus overstating future need for electricity.

The DEIS and the license application are required by law to show a need for the project and to examine alternatives to the proposed project as well as provide a cost-benefit analysis.

“It’s easy to show a benefit if you understate your costs by 300-500%, disregard the generation potential of your competitors and overstate the need for your project,” said Mariotte. “But Marylanders—and U.S.taxpayers, who will be called on to loan the money to build this reactor—deserve better. An honest, defensible examination of the costs of this reactor, the actual need for its electricity, and potential alternative sources of electricity will show that Calvert Cliffs-3 is unnecessary, too expensive, and plenty of clean sources of electricity exist to meet whatever need for power does exist,” said Mariotte. “That’s why we submitted this contention—in the hope that the NRC will heed the warning signs and hold that honest hearing.”

The groups involved in the licensing proceeding are NIRS, Public Citizen, Beyond Nuclear and Southern Maryland CARES.

The full text of the contention is available at: http://www.nirs.org/nukerelapse/calvert/contention1062510.pdf