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Maryland Debates Cost Of Constructing Nuclear Reactor

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Should Maryland support construction of a third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay? That's the focus of a public hearing in Baltimore this week, Thursday September 17. But the debate isn't over the safety of nuclear power. It's about the financial risk of construction.

The cost to build a new reactor at Calvert Cliffs could top 9-billion dollars, according to Baltimore-based Constellation Energy. The company says it can afford that, if it can partner up with French nuclear utility EDF. The proposed merger is setting off regulatory alarm bells.

Johanna Newman is with the Maryland Public Interest Research Group. She says construction costs are bound to go up, and that utility customers would be the ones footing the bill. "Constellation is going to have to not only pay back the costs of building the plant, but also interest to their investors and profits to their shareholders and ultimately that will come back to rate payers," says Newman.

A spokesman for Constellation says that won't happen. Still, the Maryland Public Service Commission is holding hearings to weigh whether the EDF merger would allow the French company to influence Baltimore Gas & Electric. The utility- Maryland's largest- is owned by Constellation.

Cathy Duchamp reports...

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