Maryland Approves Third Reactor for Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant

Federal approval of a third reactor at the Lusby plant might be years away.
Federal approval of a third reactor at the Lusby plant might be years away. (2005 Photo By James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)
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By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 2, 2009

The proposed third reactor at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant has received Maryland's final approval.

In an order made public Monday, the state's Public Service Commission affirmed a hearing examiner's approval of a certificate of public convenience and necessity for UniStar Nuclear Energy to build the reactor at the plant, which is along the Chesapeake Bay in Lusby and operated by Constellation Energy Group.

The proposal faces federal regulatory hurdles, with approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission perhaps years away.

The PSC's order will not affect the ongoing debate between the company and the state, which is insisting that the proposed merger between the financially troubled Constellation Energy and the French energy giant EDF be approved by the PSC.

That $4.5 billion merger, which would create UniStar Nuclear Energy, is crucial to Constellation Energy's ability to build the third reactor.

"Simply put, Constellation Energy's potential investment in a new nuclear facility at Calvert Cliffs 3 and the successful close of the Constellation-EDF joint nuclear venture are inseparable," said Michael J. Wallace, vice chairman and chief operating officer of Constellation Energy and chairman of UniStar Nuclear Energy.

The PSC decided last month that it should have a role in approving the merger, primarily because of concerns that the French company could have strong influence over other Constellation Energy branches, such as Baltimore Gas and Electric. On June 11, Constellation filed an appeal of the PSC's decision to require its approval of the merger.

The latest order by the commission, which approved the potential health and environmental effects of the proposed reactor, ended 18 months of contentious hearings, testimony and reviews. The PSC denied appeals by opponents of the reactor, saying that none had applied to intervene in the case by the January deadline.

"These parties seek to intervene nearly 18 months after the deadline . . . and after a process that included multiple public hearings," Terry J. Romine, the commission's executive secretary, said in the order.

"None of these individuals has claimed to be unaware of the intervention deadline or offered any reason why intervention should be allowed at this late date," he said.

In May, the U.S. Department of Energy selected Calvert Cliffs as one of four nuclear projects to begin final negotiations for part of $18.5 billion in federal loans. UniStar officials have repeatedly said that without a federal loan guarantee, the project cannot move forward. UniStar is also seeking federal approval to build reactors elsewhere in the United States.

Company officials have said the third Calvert Cliffs reactor would generate 1,600 megawatts, nearly doubling the amount of electricity produced at the plant. The first reactor began operating in 1975, followed by the second one two years later. The project would also produce more tax revenue for Calvert County and provide hundreds of jobs, supporters say.

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