Nuclear plants in Md. have safety issues

March 22, 2011

Thank you for the article on nuclear plant safety in this country ("Should we worry about nuclear plants here?" March 20).

As you point out, the Peach Bottom Reactor shares the same boiling water reactor design as the Daiichi plants. Calvert Cliffs is not a boiling water reactor. (It is a pressurized water reactor, as was Three Mile Island.) It is also only 3-4 miles from the largest liquid natural gas terminal in the United States. A huge fire at the terminal might have very serious consequences down the road.

Nuclear energy critics are right when they say power plants in this region could get in trouble if a natural or manmade event is "compounded" by human error or equipment failure. A leaking roof at Calvert Cliffs, as you mentioned, that went on for years, led to an electrical short that forced a shutdown at both plants last February. A generator failed to operate because warnings several years earlier to replace a faulty relay had been ignored. Rather than support the notion that a Fukushima accident could not occur here, we see that sometimes the industry takes chances and bad decisions are made.

It doesn't help the cause of preventive maintenance that the Price Anderson Act, which limits individual power plant costs in the event of an accident to $111.9 million, shields the nuclear power industry from full financial liability. A consequence of Price Anderson might just be that we are living with an industry that isn't as safety conscious as it purports to be.

Given how immense and long-lasting the risk of radioactive contamination it is time for us to realize that what happened at Fukushima, while not caused by a tsunami, could happen here. It is time to look to safer alternatives: solar, wind, increased technological efficiency and reduced use.

Gwen L. DuBois

The writers is a member of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility.

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