WASHINGTON – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Wednesday that Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant is secure and regulators found no safety concerns that would keep the plant from getting its license renewed.
Baltimore Gas & Electric, which owns Calvert Cliffs, can adequately manage effects of aging at the Lusby plant, the NRC concluded in the safety evaluation report.
“There is reasonable assurance that actions have been or will be taken to manage effects of aging for a 20-year period of extended operation, such that the plant can continue to operate safe[ly],” said the Wednesday report.
The report was released less than a week after a federal appeals court ordered the NRC to provide the public “a meaningful hearing” on the relicensing of Calvert Cliffs before the process is completed.
An official with the National Whistleblower Center, which brought the suit against the NRC, said earlier this week that the court ruling would likely delay a final decision on Calvert Cliffs by two to three years. Proceeding without that hearing, the official said, would be illegal.
But NRC staffers said they expect to stick to an earlier timetable that calls for a final decision on the renewal of the Calvert Cliffs license by May. The NRC is still considering what action, if any, it will take in response to the court ruling, a spokesman said Wednesday.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Friday that the NRC acted unfairly when it ignored a request from the National Whistleblower Center for a hearing on Calvert Cliffs.
“The public has been closed out of the process,” said Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Watchdog Project for the Nuclear Information and Resources Service. “The NRC has provided the utility with a shield from public scrutiny.”
But a spokesman for BG&E said the review process “has been extremely thorough” and should be allowed to proceed.
“(The safety report) offers a compelling argument for the continuous operation of Calvert Cliffs,” said BG&E spokesman Karl Neddenien.
If relicensing is granted, Calvert Cliffs’ two reactors will operate until 2034 and 2036, another 20 years beyond their original 40-year operating licenses.
Calvert Cliffs produces nearly half of BG&E’s electricity and generates power for 1 million people in central Maryland
In October, the NRC concluded that relicensing Calvert Cliffs would not pose a threat to the environment, the other major hurdle in the relicensing review.
Public interest groups have charged that the process has been too fast and not all safety concerns were addressed. Calvert Cliffs is the first plant in the nation to seek a renewal of its operating license under new streamlined NRC regulations and its progress is being watched closely by both sides of the nuclear power debate.
“The whole term ‘nuclear safety’ is an oxymoron,” said Gunter. “It’s a inherently dangerous process and an inherently dangerous industry that has been aging.”