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CitizenVox: Standing Up to Corporate Power


Calvert Cliffs, Maryland

New

On October 8, Constellation Energy announced that it would decline a $7.6 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy to finance a new nuclear reactor in Maryland. The Baltimore-based utility said in a letter to the Department of Energy (DOE) that the cost of the loan guarantee - calculated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and intended as a protection for taxpayers, who in the event of a loan default must pick up the tab - “is unreasonably burdensome and would create unacceptable risks and costs for our company.”

What does this mean for Maryland's new reactor proposal?

Unless Constellation Energy's nuclear development partner, EDF can find a new domestic partner, the project is dead.  The Atomic Energy Act prohibits a foreign entity from operating a U.S. nuclear reactor.  Learn more.

Background

On November 15, 2005, Constellation Energy and its French partner AREVA, operating as a consortium known as UniStar, formally narrowed the list of sites being considered for their first new reactor permit to two: Nine Mile Point, in upstate New York, and Calvert Cliffs, in Maryland. The Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant is located in Lusby, MD. The nuclear power plant, which is situated on the Chesapeake Bay, has two existing reactors.

In 2007, UniStar confirmed that their first proposal would be in Maryland. In response, Public Citizen, the Maryland Public Interest Research Group, Beyond Nuclear, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, members of the Southern Maryland Sierra Club, and other local activists formed the Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition. The coalition's mission is to oppose the proposed new reactor at Calvert Cliffs and to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency in Maryland.

Constellation Energy initially speculated that the project would cost upwards to $5 billion. Recent estimates have put the cost closer to $10 billion. In a move to secure partial financing for the project, Constellation Energy has launched a joint venture with the French-owned utility, Electricite de France (EdF). The terms of the partnership, which was announced on July 20, 2007, include 50/50 ownership in UniStar Nuclear Energy and a $625 million investment in UniStar by EDF. In addition, Constellation Energy has already secured $300 million worth of tax breaks from Calvert County if the reactor is built. To secure the rest of the capital needed to construct a new reactor, Constellation Energy CEO, Mayo Shattuck, has stated that the Energy Department needs to agree to back 100 percent of the debt. This is based on the fact that lenders are reluctant to gamble billions of dollars on an industry that has historically had enormous cost overruns and regulatory issues.

On July 13, 2007, UniStar submitted a partial Combined Operating License (COL) application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The documents submitted account for the environmental aspects of the application. The safety analysis portion of the application was submitted on April 1, 2008. The regulatory review is expected to take approximately three years, and construction is expected to take about four years. The best-case scenario (from UniStar’s perspective) would see the new reactor operational in 2015.

To view UniStar's application, click here.

At the state level, Unistar has bee issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity. The permit, granted by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) and issued in May 2009, allows the company to begin some construction activities as early as November 2009. However, Constellation and EdF's new deal—currently being reviewed by the PSC—to increase EdF's investment in Constellation has reopened the state debate on the new reactor. EdF has stated that if the PSC denies the transaction or levies stringent conditions on the deal, EdF will not pursue a new reactor in Maryland. Learn more about the proposed deal between Constellation and EdF.

If you would like to get involved in stopping the construction of new nuclear plants in Maryland, please email us and let us know how you’d like to help. To find out more about the campaign to stop a new nuclear reactor in Maryland, visit the Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition website. They can provide you with information and opportunities to get involved in the Maryland Clean Energy Campaign.

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