- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Seeks clarity about NRC’s foreign ownership ruling
By AMANDA HARRISON
UniStar Nuclear Energy LLC filed a petition Monday with the five-member, presidentially appointed commission that oversees the Nuclear Regulatory Commission asking for a review of the decision the three-judge Atomic Safety and Licensing Board issued Aug. 31.
In the rare, 29-page decision, the NRC licensing board denied a license for the proposed Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant unit 3 project because UniStar, the applicant for Calvert Cliffs, was bought out by Electricite de France in November 2010, resulting in 100-percent French ownership of UniStar.
“The Commission’s guidance at this time is vital to guide UniStar and other applicants as we navigate the agency’s [foreign ownership, control or domination] requirements,” UniStar wrote in a statement sent in an email Wednesday by Laura Eifler, spokeswoman for UniStar.
In the decision, the ASLB gave UniStar 60 days from the date of the decision to find a U.S. partner to enable it to meet the foreign ownership restrictions before the proceeding is officially concluded. However, the decision noted that UniStar has had time to find a U.S. partner and has not shown any progress toward that goal.
UniStar has yet to find one — two years after UniStar became solely owned by EDF.
The petition states that “UniStar faces considerable uncertainty regarding the regulatory acceptability of foreign ownership and financing of the project.
“...UniStar and prospective investors need to understand in advance what levels of foreign investment will be found acceptable and what specific negation actions will be required.”
The application for the third reactor, however, hasn’t been concluded.
In the August ruling, the ASLB wrote in a footnote that “Joint Intervenors argue that the NRC staff should not be allowed to continue reviewing the license applications of ineligible applicants,” but the ASLB went on to say that “it is well established that boards lack the authority to direct the NRC Staff’s regulatory reviews;” therefore, the application isn’t ruled out.
If UniStar can find a U.S. partner in the future — after the initial 60 days — for the project and the contention regarding foreign ownership is resolved, the application can be revisited.
“Notwithstanding the prospect in the future to reopen the proceeding when UniStar obtains a U.S. partner, there is currently insufficient guidance and specificity for the applicant to frame an acceptable future submittal to the NRC Staff on [foreign ownership, control or domination] issues,” the petition states.
The petition states that “the time is ripe” for the commission to review and provide guidance on three contentions: First, “robust governance restrictions and oversight mechanisms can be used to negate indirect foreign ownership;” second, identifying “any specific conditions or requirements for U.S. participation in a project;” and last, that there be “specific criteria for negation actions,” which are any measures that would prevent a foreign company from making any decisions that affect safety and security.