- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Although review of the application for the third reactor at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant ended in November, the application is not dead.
On Wednesday, UniStar Nuclear Energy, the applicant for the third reactor which was bought out by Electricite de France in November 2010 resulting in 100 percent foreign ownership, met Wednesday in Rockville with staff from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to discuss UniStar’s emergency preparedness and planning in its application for the proposed unit 3.
The idea of the meeting, said Michael Miernicki, a senior project manager with the NRC, was to give UniStar NRC’s staff expectations in an “expeditious way.”
In November, the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, which has been handling the proposed Calvert Cliffs 3 reactor application, issued an order to terminate its review of the proposal because UniStar failed to meet its 60-day deadline to find a U.S. partner.
However, in late September, UniStar filed a petition with the five-member, presidentially appointed commission that oversees the NRC, asking for a review of the decision the ASLB issued Aug. 31.
The ASLB’s August ruling determined the project would be in violation of the Atomic Energy Act’s prohibition against foreign ownership, control or domination. In addition to 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 would be officially concluded.
Throughout the meeting, NRC staff questioned UniStar staff about its emergency planning. UniStar is expected to provide supplemental responses to its application regarding the questions. The overarching concern from NRC staff Wednesday morning was the relationship between UniStar’s proposed unit 3 and Calvert Cliffs units 1 and 2.
Anthony Bowers, an emergency preparedness specialist with the NRC, said that because UniStar’s application is for a co-located license, the NRC wants UniStar to look at shared resources, such as a joint information center, meteorological monitoring system, alert and notification system and emergency operations facility.
“There is still an indirect commercial relationship,” Mark Finley, the senior vice president of regulatory affairs and engineering at UniStar, explained to NRC staff. He said that although the relationship hasn’t been formally documented, “that hasn’t changed.”
NRC chief of operating reactor licensing and outreach Joseph Anderson said NRC wants “some type of binding that shows that there is that agreement. That is black and white.”
A supplemental response is also needed from UniStar clarifying its elimination of 30-minute responders and adding that on-hand staff is capable of handling the emergency situation, if that’s the case.
“We need to see that these guys are going to be dedicated to that response for 60 minutes and won’t be pulled away,” Don Johnson, in the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, explained, adding that those staff can’t have any competing priorities “at all.”
NRC staff requested UniStar to provide its deviations from the industry-proposed and NRC-endorsed guidelines for specific U.S. Evolutionary Power Reactor pressurized-water reactor design considerations.
“This question has been asked multiple times,” Bowers told UniStar staff.
Johnson added that “people coming in and saying, ‘We’ll show you the deviations later’ — that part’s unacceptable. We need to have it very clear” what those deviations are. “We can’t have a huge chunk of information not available to us … and to the public.”
Scott McCain, a UniStar emergency planning specialist, assured NRC staff there are only two deviations and they will be added in an additional supplemental response.
In UniStar’s application, Bowers said there needs to be specific means for how UniStar intends to notify the public during an emergency situation, clarifying it is the actual alert system for notifying the public, not actually notifying the public. He said the way UniStar worded its position made it seem to NRC staff as though “it’s not my job.”
Currently, UniStar’s position states that an emergency alert system “will be determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency review and approval of the Alert and Notification System design certification package will be consistent with the methods used by the existing operating units at the site following their implementation of the new rule requirements.”
UniStar staff said their intention was not for their response to come across that way and that they would be sending a supplemental response clarifying their alert notification response.
NRC staff’s final concern expressed during the meeting was that UniStar does not commit to the industry-proposed and NRC-endorsed guidelines for assessing beyond design basis accident response staffing and communication capabilities. These guidelines, according to the guideline’s executive summary, “determine the required staff necessary for responding to a beyond design basis external event that affects multiple units at a site, and the identification of enhancements that could provide a means to power equipment needed to communicate on-site and off site during an extended loss of AC power event.”
NRC recommended to UniStar staff that those guidelines be added to its application or that the application states that UniStar commits to them.
Currently, UniStar and the NRC are scheduled for a March 6 meeting with the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, an independent review body, to review UniStar’s application for the proposed unit 3 at Calvert Cliffs. However, NRC staff expressed concern during the meeting of adhering to the Feb. 6 deadline, citing multiple responses and additional information needed from UniStar prior to that deadline.