U.S. NRC Blog

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Untangling Foreign Involvement in New Reactors

Scott Burnell
Public Affairs Officer
 

For the second time in two years, the NRC’s administrative law judges have offered a decision on what role overseas companies can play in building and operating new U.S. nuclear power plants.

stpIn this most recent case, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board concluded that Toshiba’s participation in the South Texas Project new reactor project south of Houston is acceptable.

When Congress created the Atomic Energy Act, it included language that prohibits “foreign ownership, control or domination” of nuclear facilities. In an August 2012 decision, the Board examined a company applying for a new reactor at the Calvert Cliffs site in Maryland. That decision concluded the company was 100 percent foreign-owned and therefore ineligible for a reactor construction and operation license.

The South Texas case presents a different set of facts. The company applying for two new reactors, Nuclear Innovation North America, is a joint venture. A U.S. utility, NRG Energy, owns about 90 percent of NINA. Toshiba’s North American subsidiary owns the rest.

The NRC has previously approved joint ownership of U.S. reactors where the foreign partner owned more than 10 percent. In the South Texas application, however, the NRC technical staff determined in May 2013 that Toshiba’s overall financial support of the project equaled improper control or domination.

The Board’s decision on the South Texas new reactor application explores some previously uncharted territory. Legal precedent on foreign ownership almost exclusively refers to transferring the licenses of existing reactors. Those license transfers largely have been made in the context of ownership percentage. The Board’s decision applies the terms “control or domination” to the South Texas arrangement.

The Board relied on the NRC’s existing standard review plan to resolve the “control or domination” question. The ultimate decision is based on the South Texas application’s corporate ownership structure and other measures. The Board concluded that those measures meet the review plan’s aim of ensuring U.S. control of safety-related decisions.

Both the NRC staff and the groups opposing the South Texas new reactors have the opportunity to appeal the Board’s decision to the five-member Commission in charge of the NRC. A final decision on the South Texas proposal will take a couple more years due to ongoing technical reviews.

8 responses to “Untangling Foreign Involvement in New Reactors

  1. CaptD April 22, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    I see this as nothing but caving into the Japanese Nuclear Utility “Gangs.”

    If the US nuclear Industry cannot get funding to build new US reactors because the American people and even Wall Street don’t support the use of nuclear any longer, then hey, lets allow the Japanese to provide it since they have a perfect safety track record ($IC).

    The Japanese Government will not allow US Companies to own Japanese Companies, so why is the US giving the Japanese partial control/ownership over a nuclear reactor in the USA?

    The answer is NUCLEAR UTILITY PROFITS and Internationalization /Ownership of the US Energy Industry.

  2. David Andersen April 22, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    It seems that it’s about time to amend the law. This regulation is a relic of the cold war and no longer makes sense, especially in the case of a Japanese or French owned company, since they already posses the technology to build nuclear plants and already supply many of the components.

  3. joy cash April 22, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    When will we ever learn the lessons of Chernobyl & Fukushima?
    Nuclear energy costs too much & is deadly. What’s so difficult to understand here?
    We can no longer turn blind eyes to nuclear spent fuel storage debacle.
    After 60 yrs., we must conclude, we have no where to safely store/dispose of our vast nuclear waste. This is the inheritance we leave our future generations.
    Enough talk about nuclear saftey, is simply doesnot exist.

    • Anonymous April 23, 2014 at 8:54 am

      And by vast you mean the football field that you could fit all the nuclear waste from all US plant from 40 years of operating. So “vast.”

      • joy cash April 23, 2014 at 1:29 pm

        By “vast” I mean spent nuclear fuel’s vast potential for ending life as we know it on earth.

        Pacific Ocean is part of our global ocean. Fukushima continues to pollute hundreds of thousands main source of nutrition from world ocean. Within months, 100% of tuna off US coast were found to be radioactive. US government response, raise allowable radiation levels in our food stuffs.

        Am I the only one here who thinks this is untenable?

        If storage of this spent fuel is so neat & safe, why not accept it into your neighborhood?

  4. Jan Boudart April 22, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Yes, Toshiba’s participation is acceptable to the NRC, but so is everything else. Why are we paying the salaries of and supporting the NRC? NO NUKES, NO COAL, NO OIL! NO KIDDING!!

    Date: Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:38:59 +0000 To: janunaj@hotmail.com

    • Anonymous April 22, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      So if we have no nukes, no coal and no oil what are you suggesting to power your computer?

      Moderator: Some verbiage removed to adhere to comment guidelines

      • joy cash April 22, 2014 at 9:24 pm

        Solar, off-shore wind & wave technologies have out dated nuclear energy. Europe is far advanced is these fields. It seems our taxpayer governmentar subsidies are golden carrot that keeps nuclear energy industry in the government trough.

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