County business leaders are acknowledging that as one of Calvert’s top economic engines, Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby must be promoted for its clean energy production.
To that end, the Calvert Chamber of Commerce conducted a brief webinar on May 12 along with representatives from Nuclear Powers Maryland coalition.
Chamber board member Mark Frisco, who served as moderator for the event, noted that area lawmakers were dismayed that discussions of providing a “clean and renewable” energy future in Maryland during the recently completed General Assembly session failed to recognize nuclear energy as part of the equation.
Recognition of nuclear as a clean source, said Frisco, means “we could become a world leader” in energy.
Jennifer Norris of Exelon, the owners and operators of Calvert Cliffs, said nuclear is perhaps the best of all “carbon-free energy forms.” She noted that unlike wind and solar, nuclear power endures under the most adverse of weather conditions.
The footprint of nuclear energy, compared with the renewable sources being touted by many environmentalists, is also more practical, according to Norris, who explained a solar farm three times the size of Annapolis would be needed to match the power output of Calvert Cliffs.
Webinar attendees also heard from Carol Lane of X-Energy, a Greenbelt-based company that is building gas-cooled nuclear reactors that use “Triso-X” fuel, also known as “power balls.”
Lane likened her company’s nuclear reactors to “giant gum ball machines."
“We’re hoping to build hundreds of these,” said Lane, who added Maryland would certainly be one of the locations for a future facility.
“Maryland needs to be more proactive,” Frisco said. “Wind and solar can’t bridge the gap.”
“We need the current fleet of nuclear reactors,” said Lane, which she called “a bridge to the supply chain.”
Noting that two surrounding jurisdictions have coal-fired plants for electric generation, Lane said X-Energy could convert those plants into nuclear facilities. Also noting that Russia and China are surpassing the U.S. in the construction of nuclear facilities, Lane added, “regaining nuclear leadership is important.”
“For Maryland to meet its climate goals we have to have Calvert Cliffs,” said Norris, who told attendees her father worked at the Lusby plant during the 1970s.
Norris also mentioned a provincial reason for local leaders to rally around Calvert Cliffs. “The plant is a significant contributor to the tax base,” she said, adding that Calvert Cliffs provides nearly 700 full-time jobs, $180 million in salaries annually, and adds “$390 million to the state’s economy."
“Imagine the loss,” said Norris of the possibility the plant became dormant.
Frisco concluded the webinar by predicting that Maryland was at a “pivotable moment” in its nuclear history and urged participants to spread the word of its importance to the business community.