Hoyer is right on Calvert Cliffs

July 08, 2010

Max Obuszewski is both inaccurate and misleading in his complaints about Rep. Steny H. Hoyer's support for the new Calvert Cliffs reactor ("Readers Respond," July 6).

It is untrue that "the insurance companies refuse to issue policies for nuclear power plants." There is a consortium of insurance companies, the American Nuclear Insurers, which provides the insurance mandated by the Price-Anderson Act, which requires the owner of each reactor to carry $110 million of insurance to cover the clean-up and liability costs of an accident at any other reactor in the U.S. (if a company owns multiple reactors, it must carry that multiple of $110 million). This insurance program fully paid the costs associated with the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. Price-Anderson is often erroneously called a federal subsidy to the nuclear power industry, without noting that the first $11 billion-plus in costs (from the insurance on 104 reactors) would be borne by the industry before any federal money is expended.

One of the primary reasons that financing for new reactors is difficult to obtain is that capricious actions on the part of anti-nuclear activists can stop a construction project after billions have been spent, but before any electricity is produced. This has happened several times, and is among the most important reasons for the loan guarantees. Federal loan guarantees are also available for renewables, which, by the way, also seem to need them.

Putative cost overruns are ghosts from the past, when each new reactor was of an almost unique design, so that experience already obtained in reactor construction was wasted. The industry has long abandoned this old, inefficient policy; all the new, large reactors now being planned will use one of only a few designs approved for safety by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Arguing cost overruns is a ploy used by anti-nuclear activists without any evidence except returning to the past.

Building the number of new reactors that this country needs will create many, many new jobs–several years of skilled construction jobs, and numerous permanent, high paying jobs.

The "waste problem" has a safe, effective solution, which is interim storage in strong, reinforced concrete structures, followed by reprocessing. This is too complicated a subject to be described in a letter to the editor, but much information can be found on the web. Suffice it to say that a strong opponent of the Yucca Mountain plan, Sen. Harry Reid (in a letter to Newsweek in December, 2008), as well as the Health Physics Society have both endorsed this method.

Rep. Hoyer is doing the right thing by supporting the loan guarantee for the reactor.

Norman Meadow, Baltimore

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