The façade of “energy independence” has fallen off the so-called “nuclear renaissance” following findings and a precedent setting ruling of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on applications to build new reactor projects in the United States revealed to be dominated by foreign governments.
On August 30, 2012, a NRC licensing board ruled that because Baltimore, MD-based UniStar Nuclear Corporation is wholly owned (100%) by the French government, it is not eligible for a combined construction permit and operating license for France's Areva design of the Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR) in Lusby, MD. The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 as amended prohibits foreign ownership, control and domination of US nuclear power projects. In December 2010, Baltimore-based Constellation Energy pulled out of its partnership with the French-owned Électricité de France (EDF) because of the high wire financial risks inherent in nuclear power construction. Constellation was later bought out by the US nuclear giant Exelon Corporation who refused to renegotiate the partnership with EDF. The Calvert Cliffs Unit 3 project is the lead project or “reference application” for three other EPR constructions projects that were looking for a rubberstamp in Pennsylvania, New York and Missouri if Maryland got the OK.
The ruling follows an on-going legal intervention led by Nuclear Information and Resource Service representing joint interveners Beyond Nuclear, Public Citizen and Southern Maryland Citizens Alliance for Renewable Energy Systems. The NRC ruling gave UniStar an additional 60 days to come up with a U.S. domestic partner before closing the licensing proceeding. EdF’s front group has failed to find a U.S. partner for the two years since Constellation Energy fled the sinking project. Over the next several weeks, UniStar will have the opportunity to appeal the board decision to the federal agency’s five member Commission which can overrule or modify the lower board’s ruling.
The EPR project (aka “European Problem Reactor”) is the reason that EdF cannot find a US corporate partner. The only two EPR projects under construction in Olkiluoto, Finland and Flamenville, France are years behind schedule, billions of Euros over budget and mired in mismanagement, bad construction, technical problems and legal battles.
In December 2011, a NRC staff review of the South Texas Units 3 and 4 new reactor project similarly concluded that Nuclear Innovative North America’s (NINA) combined construction permit and operating license application did not meet the same Foreign Ownership, Control and Domination requirements of the Atomic Energy Act and related NRC law. The NRC staff determined that the Japanese corporation Toshiba owned approximately 85% of the new nuclear project and recommended a suspension of its review of the application. In February 2012, the NRC licensing board in this proceeding found enough wiggle room and dispute to rule in favor of the applicant for further evidentiary hearings on the ownership controversy.