Experts: NRC Licensing Board Expected Friday To Strike Down Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Reactor Project
End to Former “Flagships” of Sputtering U.S. “Nuclear Renaissance”: Foreign Ownership Rules to Block Licensing of Calvert Cliffs 3 in MD, Nine Mile Point 3 in NY, and South Texas Project.
WASHINGTON, July 26, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Experts said today that they expect the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to announce Friday that it will deny a license to the Calvert Cliffs 3 nuclear reactor project in Maryland.
The same foreign ownership issues blocking the Calvert Cliffs 3 license also would effectively kill the pending nuclear reactor projects at Nine Mile Point 3 in New York State and the South Texas Nuclear Project, according to the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS).
NIRS indicated that it has not been notified in advance by the NRC of the specific rulings but indicated that the handwriting has been on the wall for months for the foreign-controlled Calvert Cliffs 3 project, which has been unable find a U.S. partner in order to escape the foreign-ownership controls.
NIRS Executive Director Michael Mariotte said: “The expected NRC decision will be a blow to the nuclear industry generally, which is seeing viable new reactor orders fade away into the horizon. The first applicant beyond Calvert Cliffs 3 to be affected will be Nine Mile Point 3, also owned by UniStar. That project has been on hold pending the outcome of the Calvert Cliffs 3 proceeding. It will not proceed. Also greatly affected will be the South Texas Nuclear Project. Just four short years ago, Calvert Cliffs and South Texas were the flagships of the nuclear renaissance. In the summer of 2007, Calvert Cliffs became the first partial applicant for a new reactor license in 30 years. It was followed a few weeks later by South Texas, which became the first applicant to file a full license application. Now, both projects have failed.”
Former NRC Commissioner Peter Bradford, currently adjunct professor of nuclear and public policy at the Vermont Law School, said: “Whatever the NRC Licensing Board decides with regard to the foreign ownership issue tomorrow, the proposed reactors at Calvert Cliffs and South Texas are not going to be built in the foreseeable future. These units were never economic, not from the day that their NRC applications were first filed in 2007-2008, when they were hailed as the flagships of a ‘nuclear renaissance’. The reactors always cost too much compared to available alternatives. They depended on massive subsidy from taxpayers and/or customers, subsidies that aren’t going to be forthcoming and on climate change policies that have not been adopted.”
Attorney Robert V. Eye, representing the intervenors opposing the licensing of the South Texas Project, said: “This is big news for the South Texas Project. South Texas 3 & 4 are dependent on money from Japan-based Toshiba. The applicant, NINA, maintains that the Toshiba financial support is in the form of loans that do not violate the foreign ownership prohibitions. But loans come with strings attached and, In this case, those strings create a relationship where Toshiba controls the project.”
In November 2008, NIRS filed a contention with the NRC that the Calvert Cliffs project violates the Atomic Energy Act’s prohibition against foreign ownership, control or domination of a U.S. nuclear reactor.
The applicant for Calvert Cliffs is UniStar Nuclear. In November 2010, Electricite de France (EDF) became the sole owner of UniStar Nuclear. On April 6, 2011, the NRC staff determined that UniStar is ineligible to receive a construction license because of EDF’s 100 percent control of UniStar. On April 18, 2011, the Licensing Board issued a show cause order to UniStar, asking why the board should not therefore rule in favor of NIRS on the foreign ownership contention, deny a license and end the proceeding.
An oral hearing on the Licensing Board’s show cause order was held on July 7, 2011. At that hearing, UniStar argued that the licensing proceeding should be open-ended and that it should have as much time as it desired to find a U.S. partner to proceed with the project. UniStar also acknowledged that the economic/energy climate and the Maryland state regulatory climate are not conducive to building a new reactor in Maryland. In an August 26, 2011 decision, the licensing board rejected UniStar’s argument that the proceeding should be open-ended, stating that would be a violation of stated NRC policy to expedite licensing hearings to the extent possible.
UniStar appears to have made no progress in enticing a U.S. partner to join it in this ill-fated project. It is for these reasons that NIRS now believes that the likeliest outcome is that the Licensing Board now is on the verge of granting summary disposition of the foreign ownership contention in its favor, and will issue that rarest of decisions–an actual denial of a license to a nuclear reactor.
The Licensing Board orders will be posted on NIRS website (http://www.nirs.org) as soon as they are released.
The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) was founded nearly 35 years ago to be the national information and networking center for citizens and environmental activists concerned about nuclear power, radioactive waste, radiation and sustainable energy issues. For more information, visit http://www.nirs.org.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A streaming audio replay of today’s news event will be available on the Web at http://www.nirs.org as of 3 p.m. EDT on July 26, 2012.
SOURCE Nuclear Information and Resource Service