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On Fukushima Day, Another Door Slams Shut on US Nuclear Expansion Plans

Beyond Nuclear lauds decision not to green light third Maryland reactor


On a day when thousands around the world are protesting nuclear power to mark two years since the deadly Fukushima nuclear accident began in Japan, another door has slammed shut on nuclear expansion plans in the US.

Beyond Nuclear hailed Monday's decision by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to deny an appeal by UniStar, wholly owned by French utility, Electricite de France (EdF), for a third reactor at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant site on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

"Electricite de France sank into the financial quicksand that is new reactor construction," said Paul Gunter, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project at Beyond Nuclear, an environmental advocacy group based in Takoma Park, MD. "US nuclear corporations are clearly unwilling to join EdF in nuclear energy's economic quagmire, a pattern that has been only too evident at EdF's other reactor projects in Europe."

EdF had hoped to build an Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR), a French Areva design originally targeted for six US nuclear sites. But the EPR, a new, untested design, already has a lamentable history in Europe.

The EPR reactors under construction in Flamanville, France and Olkiluoto, Finland, are years behind schedule and enormously over-budget and the design has been challenged by safety authorities in France, Finland and Britain. Olkiluoto may now not be operational until 2016 -- four years later than the original target date -- and its price has more than doubled, soaring to $10 billion. Flamanville's original budget has tripled. EdF's UK reactor plans have been marked by the departure of a series of business partners.

"This decision could not be more timely, coming on the second anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident and on the heels of the recent decision of the Maryland State Legislature to adopt and invest in the development of offshore wind energy," Gunter added.

The NRC Order denied the EdF appeal on two grounds: on the agency's policy regarding foreign ownership, which is based on longstanding language in the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), which prohibits foreign ownership and control of US nuclear reactors; and that the applicants "continue to look for a U.S. partner, and have not amended their application."

The applicant for a third Calvert Cliffs reactor was in trouble as soon as EdF's US partner, Constellation Energy, withdrew. On August 30 2012, the NRC had given UniStar 60 more days to comply with the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) in order to be granted a license for a third reactor at Calvert Cliffs.

After the 60 days expired, the NRC put the application on indefinite review. But when no US company stepped up to partner with EdF on the project, the NRC opted on Monday to deny the appeal. EdF could continue to search for a US partner but would need to start a new application for the Calvert Cliffs site.

"The nuclear retreat continues unabated," Gunter pointed out. "Everywhere you look, new nuclear projects are either being canceled, or are encountering cost over-runs, and aging reactors are failing and permanently closing." Gunter noted Duke Energy's permanent closure of Florida's Crystal River nuclear station and the Dominion Energy announcement of the permanent closure of Wisconsin's Kewaunee nuclear station later this year.

In November 2008, three national safe energy groups -- Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Information & Resource Service, and Public Citizen -- and the local citizens group Southern Maryland Citizen Alliance for Renewable Energy Solutions -- formally petitioned the NRC licensing board for a hearing opposing the Calvert Cliffs 3 application. The joint petition included the contention that EdF, as the dominant owner of the third proposed reactor, was in violation of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 as amended and NRC licensing regulations, which prohibit controlling foreign ownership of a US nuclear plant.

To read the full NRC Order, see:

To view a compilation of the Nuclear Retreat, see:

Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic.

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