The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Monday denied a petition from Unistar Nuclear Operating Services to review an August 2012 decision by the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) that found the company was ineligible to obtain a construction and operation license (COL) for its proposed—and then abandoned—Calvert Cliffs 3 EPR because it was completely foreign-owned.

At the time UniStar’s COL application was filed in 2007, UniStar was a joint venture between Maryland-based Constellation and the French company EDF. Even then, that arrangement was challenged by several environmental groups, but in late 2010, EDF bought Constellation’s portion and made UniStar 100% foreign-owned.

The ASLB in August gave UniStar 60 days to prove progress toward a partnership with the U.S. that meets the commission’s requirements, while UniStar appealed that decision. But on Monday, all five NRC commissioners unanimously voted to approve a memorandum and order denying UniStar’s petition for review of the ASLB’s decision, but they partially granted a request for the NRC to provide general guidance to the nuclear industry on the foreign ownership issue.

In its decision, the NRC rejected the petition on the grounds that the agency’s policy regarding foreign ownership was based on "longstanding language" in the Atomic Energy Act (AEA). It said, however, that "with the passage of time since the agency first issued substantive guidance on the foreign ownership provision of AEA section 103d, a reassessment is appropriate. We therefore are directing the Staff, outside the adjudicatory context, to review issues relating to foreign ownership and recommend whether the Commission should consider modifications to agency guidance or practice."

The NRC also pointed out that UniStar has "acknowledged that they no longer intend to proceed with the current application as it stands today, but will look instead for a U.S. partner to hold part of EDF’s 100% ownership share." UniStar also intended to submit a revised COL application once it had located a new co-owner. "Given the current status of the application, a review of the Board’s decision now essentially would constitute an advisory opinion, a practice we disfavor," the NRC said.

Sources: POWERnews, NRC

—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine,@sonalcpatel)