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Local Watchdog Group Warns About Nuclear Accidents

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Three Mile Island – Pennsylvania
Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The crisis in Japan has prompted a local watchdog group to issue its own warning.

Alex DeMetrick reports during the past two weeks, the Maryland Public Interest Group has been compiling information it says shows the nuclear accident in Japan could happen in the U.S. 

As radiation levels continue to climb at Japan’s crippled nuclear power plants, critics of nuclear power have been busy issuing their own warnings.

The latest comes in a report compiling incidents of problems at U.S. plants.

“The report Maryland PIRG is releasing today clearly shows nuclear power is too risky for our communities,” said Johanna Neumann, Maryland PIRG.

The report claims 17 significant incidents since the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979. 

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has identified significant precursors to a meltdown,” said Neumann.

But the two closest nuclear plants are not mentioned in the report. 

Calvert Cliffs has repaired cracks in pipes and concrete in the past.

“I think that the people around Calvert Cliffs and those communities are completely safe.  I don’t think they should be concerned at all,” said Brew Barron, Constellation Energy Nuclear Group.

At the Peach Bottom Nuclear Plant, bridges had to be reinforced last summer in order to move in seven new massive transformers as part of an ongoing upgrade.

“Today, nuclear power is a lot safer because of that.  The training of our people is top-notch,” said Ralph DeSantos, TMI spokesman.

Locally, the report claims an incident developed eight years ago at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Southern Maryland.

“In 2003, radioactive hydrogen was leaking from the plant and workers identified the source of that radioactive hydrogen as one of the original pipes that was laid into the ground more than 40 years ago,” said Neumann.   

But the incident did not lead to problems outside the plant, and the industry disputes what happened in Japan is likely to happen here.

“The actions taken by the industry since Three Mile Island have prepared us to deal with events just like Japan and maybe even worse,” said Marvin Fertel, Nuclear Energy Institute.

But those assurances are still coming with comprehensive safety reviews of plants by operators and federal regulators.

Constellation Energy, which owns Calvert Cliffs, has been trying to get a third reactor built at the plant.  Cost has been a major obstacle.  It’s not clear what impact Japan’s crisis will have on those plans.

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