Donald Fry: We must not lose sight of new nuclear plant’s benefits

By Donald Fry

Jay Hancock raises some interesting issues in his August 19 column speculating that the pending $4.5 billion deal between Constellation Energy Group and Electricite de France (EDF) will fall victim to a combination of overreaching state regulators and/or Constellation’s improving financial condition.

Hancock’s speculation notwithstanding, the EDF deal is still pending and the state would be smart to speed the approval process that it has imposed on the two companies.

However the Constellation-EDF deal works out, it’s important for the governor and policy makers to recognize the substantial economic stakes that are in play when a solid plan to build a third nuclear plant in Maryland is left up to question.

Maryland sorely needs the planned new 1,600 megawatt nuclear plant. Among other things, it would, by itself, increase Maryland’s existing in-state electricity generating capacity by 12 percent – something that is needed in a state that currently imports more than 25 percent of its power.

The new $8-10 billion plant would also create more than 4,000 construction jobs, at least 400 new permanent jobs, and a host of other beneficial effects ranging from increased property tax revenue to greater income tax revenue derived from new jobs and higher incomes.

That’s what projects of this magnitude do for a state and its counties. And these are just the basics. A new power plant would also address two important goals of the O’Malley administration. First, it would provide emission-free power to 1.3 million homes. Plus, providing more locally generated nuclear energy would significantly benefit customers by reducing grid congestion and paving the way to reduced rates.

Having Constellation’s UniStar division headquartered here, and building the new Calvert Cliffs plant as the first of a new generation of nuclear facilities in the U.S., would position Baltimore and Maryland at the hub of America’s emerging nuclear energy industry. Long term, this means an increased number of engineers, computer professionals and other high-technology jobs in our region and state – all good things.

This is the kind of economic opportunity that we must recognize and find a way to seize, not obstruct.

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