- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Friday would have been the day of the final decision from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety and Licensing Board concerning the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant unit 3 project; however, the decision was delayed to “on or before Aug. 31,” according to a NRC news release.
A decision whether to deny Calvert Cliffs a license for a third reactor was expected Friday from the three administrative judges on the board, based on three contentions — violation of federal limits on foreign ownership, insufficient consideration for renewable energy alternatives to nuclear energy and a third contention that can only be speculated — according to Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service.
“We were expecting this a couple months ago,” Mariotte said Thursday during a panel discussion of the implications of a NRC license denial for CCNPP. “So this is later than expected.”
The delay is “due to the intertwined nature of the issues still pending before the Board and the size and complexity of the record from the evidentiary hearing,” a NRC ASLB news release states.
The expected ruling on the three contentions also will affect the pending nuclear reactor projects at Nine Mile Point 3 in New York and the South Texas Nuclear Project, according to NIRS.
Peter Bradford, adjunct professor of nuclear and public policy at Vermont Law School and former NRC commissioner, said during the panel discussion that “whatever the NRC licensing board decides with regard to the foreign ownership issue ... the proposed reactors at Calvert Cliffs and South Texas are not going to be built in the foreseeable future.”
He added that the projects were never economical because reactors “always cost too much compared to available alternatives.”
In the summer of 2007, Calvert Cliffs was the first to apply for a new nuclear reactor license in 30 years. Then in November 2008, the NIRS filed a contention with the NRC claiming Calvert Cliffs’ corporate structure “ran afoul of the foreign ownership law,” said Mariotte, who added that the contention was still open when Unistar Nuclear Energy, the applicant for Calvert Cliffs, was bought out by Electricite de France in November 2010.
In April 2011, the NRC determined the French-owned Unistar company was ineligible to receive a construction license because of the 100-percent French ownership of Unistar.
Later that month, the NRC ASLB ordered a show cause order to Unistar asking why the board shouldn’t rule in favor of NIRS on the foreign ownership contention.
In July 2011, during an oral hearing of the show cause order, Unistar requested time to find a U.S. partner, but Unistar has yet to find one.
It is based on this that the NIRS believes the “handwriting has been on the wall for months for the foreign-controlled Calvert Cliffs 3 project,” according to a NIRS news release.
If the license is denied, it will be a rare decision, Mariotte stressed during the panel discussion.
“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,” Mariotte said.