Historic Decision: Nuclear Reactor License Denied on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland
A three judge Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) today denied a license for the proposed Calvert Cliffs-3 nuclear reactor on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.
In a 29-page decision, the ASLB agreed with intervenors that the Calvert Cliffs-3 project would be in violation of the Atomic Energy Act’s prohibition against foreign ownership, control or domination, and that the project’s owner, UniStar Nuclear, is eligible neither to receive a license nor to even apply for a license. UniStar is 100 percent owned by the French government’s Electricite de France (EDF).
“For the aforementioned reasons, the Board grants summary disposition in favor of Joint Intervenors as to Contention 1 and finds Applicants currently ineligible to apply for or obtain a license. The license cannot be granted as long as the current ownership arrangement is in effect,” said the ASLB.
This is only the second time in history a reactor license has been denied by an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. The first was the license application for the Byron reactor in Illinois in 1984, which was briefly denied because of quality assurance problems at the site. But that decision was quickly overturned on appeal as the utility already had initiated a program to correct the problems.
In this case, the ASLB is giving UniStar 60 more days to find a U.S. partner that might enable it to meet the foreign ownership restrictions before the ASLB declares the proceeding concluded. The decision noted that UniStar already has had nearly two years since it became solely owned by EDF to find a partner, and has not shown any progress toward that. UniStar can appeal this decision to the NRC Commissioners.
“This is a great day for Maryland,” said Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), which first filed the contention on foreign ownership in November 2008 and has been the pro se intervenor on the issue ever since. “Marylanders need not fear another dangerous nuclear reactor in our state, nor the accumulation of still more lethal radioactive waste on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.”
Mariotte added, “But this is also a blow to the so-called ‘nuclear renaissance.’ In the summer of 2007, Calvert Cliffs-3 became the first new reactor project to submit even a partial application in about 30 years. It was the flagship of the nuclear renaissance and now it is a symbol of the deservedly failed revival of nuclear power in the U.S. That UniStar has been unable to find a single U.S. utility to partner with it in this extraordinarily expensive project speaks volumes about the lack of genuine interest in new nuclear reactors in the U.S.”
Originally, UniStar Nuclear was composed of EDF and the Maryland-based Constellation Energy. Even then, NIRS argued the corporate structure was dominated by EDF and the French government—that was when our contention was filed. But Constellation dropped out of the project and sold its share to EDF in October 2010, after turning down an offered taxpayer loan guarantee from the Department of Energy.
The original intervention in the Calvert Cliffs-3 licensing in November 2009 was undertaken by NIRS, Public Citizen, Beyond Nuclear and Southern Maryland CARES. NIRS was the lead intervenor on the foreign ownership issue and on a separate contention also decided today. That contention argued that the Environmental Impact Statement for the project understated the potential contribution of solar and wind power as alternatives to Calvert Cliffs-3. In a lengthy and complicated decision, the ASLB ruled that the contention was correct when it was filed, but that the NRC already has taken sufficient steps to address the deficiencies.
The ASLB today also declined to admit a separate new contention, filed in numerous licensing cases, based on findings of the NRC’s Fukushima Task Force and its potential implications for U.S. reactors.
A copy of the decision is here: http://www.nirs.org/nukerelapse/calvert/contention1decision.pdf
A copy of the decision on the solar and wind contention (Contention 10C) is here: http://www.nirs.org/nukerelapse/calvert/10cruling.pdf
A copy of the decision on the Fukushima Task Force contention (Contention 11) is here: http://www.nirs.org/nukerelapse/calvert/cont11ruling.pdf
On July 26, 2012, NIRS held a press briefing to discuss the upcoming ASLB decision and its implications for Calvert Cliffs and the nuclear industry generally. That briefing can be heard here: http://www.hastingsgroupmedia.com/NIRS/072612CalvertCliffsDecisionImplicationstelenewsevent.mp3
Statement of Michael Mariotte, executive director of NIRS, at the July 22, 2012 briefing is here: http://www.nirs.org/nukerelapse/calvert/CC3briefingstatement72612.pdf
A timeline of the Calvert Cliffs case is here: http://www.nirs.org/nukerelapse/calvert/cc3timeline.pdf
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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