Regulator rejects Calvert Cliffs challenge

12 March 2013

Unistar's application to build a new reactor in Maryland remains on partial hold after US regulators upheld an earlier ruling that the company's foreign ownership precludes it from obtaining a nuclear licence in the USA.

Unistar subsidiaries Calvert Cliffs 3 Operating Project LLC and Unistar Nuclear Operating Services LLC had petitioned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to review the August 2012 ruling about Unistar's ineligibility to obtain a US nuclear construction and operation licence (COL). At the time that the COL application was filed, Unistar was jointly owned by US corporation Constellation Energy and EDF of France. EDF took 100% ownership of the company in 2010, prompting several US environmental groups to launch an intervention with the regulator as federal US regulations prohibit foreign companies from obtaining an operating licence for US nuclear plants.

The NRC commissioners rejected the latest petition on two grounds: firstly, because the fundamental objection made by the Unistar subsidiaries was to the NRC's policy on foreign ownership and not on the COL application itself; and secondly, because the applicants had already acknowledged that they are seeking a US partner and do not intend to proceed with the current application as it stands. Should that happen, the COL application would have to be revised to reflect the new ownership.

Nevertheless, the NRC commissioners in their ruling agreed that a "reassessment" of its guidance on foreign ownership would be "appropriate." Accordingly, NRC staff have been directed to review issues on foreign ownership with a view to recommending whether or not the NRC should consider revising its current practice.

The commissioners declined requests from intervenors, including anti-nuclear groups, to dismiss the Calvert Cliffs COL application completely, citing Unistar's "oft-repeated commitment" to find a US partner. In the meantime, the commissioners note, the review of the Calvert Cliffs COL application "remains ongoing on matters other than foreign ownership."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Filed under: Regulation, Plant licensing, USA