Friday, May 4, 2007

UniStar looks to build third reactor at Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant

Department of Economic Development supports reactor’s construction

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UniStar — a partnership between Constellation Energy of Baltimore and Areva NC Inc. of Bethesda — has chosen the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby as the possible site for a new nuclear reactor.

Constellation owns the plant, which already has two generating reactors.

UniStar this week notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of its plans to apply for a combined construction and operating license for the new reactor.

However, UniStar has not yet decided whether to build the third reactor and several other sites remain under consideration, according to spokesman Brian Meeley. Permit approval does not obligate UniStar to build the third reactor.

Calvert Cliffs was chosen for the first permit application because Constellation Energy already owns the plant, has the site available and has been exploring the possibility of building a third reactor there, Meeley said.

UniStar hopes to benefit from the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Meeley said. The act calls for the federal government to provide ‘‘standby support” or financial compensation to nuclear ventures that are delayed by federal regulatory agencies through no fault of their owners.

The act also offers federal loan guarantees for nuclear projects, promising to repay investors’ loans if UniStar should default, Meeley said.

Finally, if the application is accepted by the end of 2008 and some safety-related concrete is poured by 2014, the plant becomes eligible for ‘‘production tax credits” for producing a form of energy that emits less greenhouse gas than fossil fuel-powered generators, Meeley said.

The Calvert County Department of Economic Development is supportive of a third reactor.

‘‘The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners recognizes the economic impact that a potential new nuclear power plant would have on the county through job creation and tax payments, as well as the importance of nuclear energy in meeting the country’s energy demands,” according to a department statement. ‘‘The safety record and emissions-free technology inherent in nuclear energy also make it an attractive industry for the County and thus, the [board] continues to support the potential expansion ...,” wrote Linda Vassallo, director of economic development for the county.