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ALLENTOWN, PA-PPL Nuclear Development LLC, a subsidiary of locally based PPL Corp., has signed an agreement with an affiliate of Baltimore-based UniStar Nuclear Energy to prepare an application to obtain a license to construct and operate a new nuclear power plant near its existing Susquehanna nuclear units in Berwick. UniStar is a joint venture between Constellation Energy, also based in Baltimore, and EDF Group, a European energy company headquartered in Paris.

The application, based on Areva’s US Evolutionary Power Reactor design, will be submitted to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the end of 2008. Although PPL has not yet decided to move forward with construction, the application time frame helps preserve the potential for federal production tax credits and federal loan guarantees under the US Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Paris-based Areva has US headquarters in Bethesda, MD. Its EPR design utilizes pressurized water reactor technology, which is long proven, according to Bryce Shriver, the PPL principal who oversees development of the company’s nuclear strategy. In a statement, he also says the design “includes robust safety systems.” Contracting with UniStar also gives PPL the opportunity to be part of a standardized fleet of US EPR facilities that share the same design and operating procedures.

“PPL would not undertake nuclear construction alone,” says William Spence, PPL’s EVP and COO, in a statement. “Because of the large capital commitment required, we would proceed with nuclear construction only as part of some type of joint-venture arrangement.” PPL is in talks regarding such arrangements, but Spence says, “it would be premature to discuss details of those initiatives at this time.” A call to PPL wasn’t returned by deadline.

PPL and UniStar are currently evaluating tests that have already been performed to determine the suitability of the proposed location on land it owns proximate to the Susquehanna plant. An initial reactor came online at the site in 1983, followed by a second in 1985.

“Given the growing concerns about global climate change and the rising need for new power plants in the Northeast region, it makes sense for PPL to pursue a license for a third nuclear unit,” Spence says. He also notes that the possible third unit “is just one part of PPL’s comprehensive plan to grow our generation portfolio,” which also includes the possible acquisition or construction of coal, hydroelectric, natural gas and renewable energy facilities.

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