Since then, Constellation has merged with Exelon Corp., the Chicago-based energy company that is the nation's leading operator of nuclear plants. But an Exelon spokesman made clear Friday that while the company is seeking to boost the output of its existing nuclear reactors, it's not interested in a project its merger partner walked away from.
"Exelon has no near-term plans to build a new nuclear plant," said spokesman Paul Adams.
Even if Unistar fails to meet the government deadline for finding a U.S. partner, the licensing board indicated it would reopen the case if the company could show progress toward meeting the law's ownership requirements.
In the meantime, the NRC staff still could continue its safety evaluation of the proposed reactor, said commission spokeswoman Diane Screnci. The commission has completed an environmental review of the project, and in a separate ruling Thursday the licensing board rejected opponents' objections to it.
If the NRC staff continues to review the proposed plant, that could be a silver lining of sorts, said Norman Meadow, vice chairman of the Maryland Conservation Council. He is one of a handful of environmentalists who has supported the nuclear project, arguing it would do less harm to the environment than wind turbines, solar farms and other renewable-energy projects.
Unistar has proposed using a reactor designed by AREVA, another French company, Meadow pointed out. Should that design pass muster with the NRC, it could smooth the way for other nuclear projects using the same reactor design, even if another reactor never gets built at Calvert Cliffs.
"Its sort of like a pothole in the road," Meadow said of the licensing decision. "It's not like a cliff that the bus ran over."
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