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Speaking out against foreign ownership of U.S. atomic reactors

Recently elected to the U.S. Senate, Ed Markey (D-MA) has watchdogged the nuclear industry for four decades while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. Today, he has spokean out against NRC weakening its rules on foreign ownership of U.S. atomic reactors.For several long years, an environmental coalition comprised of NIRS, Beyond Nuclear, Public Citizen, and Southern Maryland CARES co-intervened against the proposed new atomic reactor at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay, and won. The death blow in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing proceeding was dealt by a contention against foreign ownership of U.S. atomic reactors, argued pro se by NIRS executive director Michael Mariotte. Baltimore-based Constellation Energy abandoned the project, leaving French government-owned Electricite de France (EDF) holding the bag with 100% ownership stakes, a clear violation of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954. Reading the writing on the walls, no other U.S. nuclear utility stepped forward to fill the void. The project was doomed, and ultimately defeated.

As NIRS states in its press release below, "Earlier this week, EDF announced that it is permanently leaving the U.S. nuclear power market and will no longer attempt to build new reactors here."

NIRS went on: "The issue has come up again at the South Texas Nuclear Project, where intervening organizations have charged that the two nuclear reactors proposed there would be owned, controlled and dominated by the Japanese company Toshiba. The NRC staff agrees with the intervenors and issued a letter stating that a license cannot be granted for the project. An Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has scheduled a hearing on the matter in October."

In fact, not only Toshiba of Japan, but also its supposed competitor, Hitachi of Japan, as well as Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), and finally the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), were involved with South Texas Project's proposed new reactors.

(Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, while on a national anti-nuclear speaking tour of Japan, had the honor and privilege of presenting a coalition letter, signed by scores of U.S. groups, to officials from the Japanese national Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), as well as JBIC. The letter urged METI and JBIC to not invest Japanese taxpayer funds in proposed new atomic reactors in the U.S., as at South Texas Project, due to the financial (not to mention the radiological) risks. The meeting took place in Tokyo, in August 2010. Kevin was there alongside Japanese environmental allies, including from Green Action Kyodo, Citizens Nuclear Information Center Tokyo, and Friends of the Earth Japan. Seven months later, Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe began.)

Shortly after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe began on 3/11/11, the U.S. partner in the new reactors project at South Texas Project, NRG Energy of Princeton, NJ, walked away.

Now NRC is trying to loosen its rules prohibiting foreign ownership of U.S. reactors. NIRS put out the following message:

"[T]oday NIRS submitted lengthy comments to the NRC--supported by 65 other groups [including Beyond Nuclear] -- urging the strengthening of the rules implementing the Atomic Energy Act's ban on foreign ownership, control or domination. The legislative history of the Act shows that Congress intended that no more than about 25% of a reactor can be foreign-owned, but the NRC has moved far away from that over the years. It's time that the agency do what Congress intended and actively prevent foreign control of U.S. nuclear reactors. Here is a press release about the comments; here are the comments themselves (pdf); and here are comments submitted today by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) [photo, above left] (also pdf).

The NRC is planning a webinar on the issue on August 21. Here is the information; contact the NRC if you'd like to speak during this meeting."