Friday, October 15, 2010

Water and nuclear power--the silence is not golden for Calvert Cliffs

Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Lusby MarylandCalvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Lusby, Maryland (photo from Wikipedia)

A few years back, when a drought in the South threatened several nuclear (and coal) power plants (nuclear plants are humonguous users of water, which is they tend to be situated near bodies of them) was the first time the impact of water in nuclear power generation really stood out in my mind.

Closer to home, an additional variation on this theme exists, as one of Washington area's nuclear plants, Calvert Cliffs (pictured above, via Wikipedia) in Lusby, MD, is located in the same town as the nearby Calvert Cliffs State Park (which I fondly remember visiting in middle school), and some residents.

As of late, these homeowners' properties have been subject to severe erosion, and some have recently been offered buyouts because of the gravity of the situation, as seen here:

Most of the previous news stories about their plight take the tack that the impasse in helping the homeowners stems from efforts to protect an endangered species, the tiger beetle. Oddly, none of these stories even mention in passing that a nuclear plant is in Lusby, and question whether it might also be affected by cliff erosion in the area. (Also, no one in the media has questioned the wisdom of purchasing homes near erosion-prone cliffs in the first place.) If folks are so worried about the environmental impact of homes falling into the Chesapeake Bay, imagine how much worse the impact would be if erosion caused part of the land immediately surrounding the nuclear plant to fall into the Bay. Are there any efforts being made to stabilize the power plant's land to keep it from falling into the Chesapeake?

Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant is not perfect, and faces other threats, not merely erosion of the nearby cliffs. It shut down briefly this past February because of problems caused by another form of water--melting snow. In a 2009 incident, a stray bullet from an onsite firing range (!!!) struck a command center near the reactors, which, mercifully, caused no major problems, as far as is known. A Washington Post article about the incident quoted Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) spokesperson Holly Harrington, "Firing ranges are common on the sprawling grounds of the nation's nuclear facilities." Bullets and nuke plants sound like a combination dreamed up by a B-movie producer (Bullets over the Bay).

Finally, if cliffside erosion near Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant potentially threatens the stability of the enterprise (a possibility which apparently even anti-nuclear groups such as the Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition are not addressing), what about other nuclear plants across the U.S., which tend to be situated near bodies of water. Might the land near them also be facing erosion issues? Or are we, as a society, simultaneously so scared and complacent about the 800 pound gorilla of nuclear power that we dare not even ask such questions?|Start Petition

No comments: