Group seeking to build South Texas nuclear reactors passes NRC test

April 11 Fri Apr 11, 2014 6:25pm EDT

April 11 (Reuters) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's judicial arm ruled in favor of the group looking to build two new reactors at the South Texas nuclear power plant in Texas on the issue of foreign ownership, NRG Energy Inc said on Friday.

Nuclear Innovation North America (NINA), which is 90 percent owned by New Jersey-based NRG and 10 percent owned by Toshiba Corp of Japan, wants to build the new reactors.

However, Toshiba has an option to acquire up to 90 percent ownership of NINA, which the NRC staff determined could give Toshiba an 85 percent ownership interest in the new reactors.

NINA has been battling staff at the NRC over the issue of foreign ownership since soon after NRG said it would no longer invest additional capital in the project due to U.S. regulatory uncertainty in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan in March 2011.

Foreign companies cannot control nuclear plants in the United States.

"This ruling clears one of the last remaining items necessary for issuance of a combined license" for the proposed new reactors, said Mark McBurnett, president and chief executive officer of NINA.

Officials at the NRC were not immediately available to comment.

The South Texas plant has two existing 1,280-megawatt reactors. In 2007, the South Texas owners applied with the NRC to add two Toshiba 1,350-MW Advanced Boiling Water Reactors at a cost of at least $17 billion.

The two operating reactors are owned by NRG (44 percent), the City of San Antonio's CPS Energy utility (40 percent) and the City of Austin's Austin Energy (16 percent).

The NRC has said it will not make any final reactor license decisions anywhere in the nation until at least late 2014 due to issues surrounding the long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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