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Maryland approves wetlands license for nuclear reactor

ANNAPOLIS — A Maryland board approved a wetlands license on Wednesday for work that would be needed to prepare for a potential third nuclear reactor at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Lusby by the Chesapeake Bay.

The Board of Public Works, which includes Gov. Martin O’Malley, Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot, voted 3-0 to approve the license for UniStar Operating Services LLC. The vote came after the company assured board members work would not begin until the project cleared business and regulatory hurdles needed to move forward. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown voted in place of O’Malley, who did not attend the meeting.

The work would include dredging and creating a discharge pipe for the Chesapeake Bay water used for cooling the reactor.

Plans for a third reactor by UniStar, a subsidiary of Electricite de France, still face regulatory and business hurdles. UniStar still needs to find a U.S. partner, after Constellation Energy Group decided to withdraw from participating. The plan needs regulatory approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Still, Unistar Senior Vice President Ed Jarmas told the board it would be wrong to characterize the project as stalled.

“I think one needs to realize that the project has expended over $500 million in developmental expenses to get us to where we’re at,” Jarmas said, referring to permitting and licensing activities as well as detailed engineering design plans.

Jarmas told the board it’s hard to say when work would start.

“That’s a difficult question because the answer is highly speculative since it’s driven by a number of factors that need to come together,” Jarmas said.

Jarmas also said it’s important to get the wetlands permit in order to show a potential U.S. partner that the company has moved forward.

“One of the reasons we need a license issued at this time is to move forward on the issue that you raised, which is where are we in identifying the U.S. partner,” Jarmas told the board.