French nuclear group Areva has forged an alliance with the USA’s Constellation Energy for the formation of Unistar Nuclear, a joint enterprise that brings together a manufacturer and an operator and owner.

Michael Wallace, executive vice president of Unistar, said that the company’s one-stop-shop approach would provide an unprecendented level of certainty to utilities hoping to build new nuclear capacity in the USA.

Unistar intend to provide the business framework to enable the creation of joint venture companies which would license, construct, own and operate nuclear power plants as part of a standardised fleet based around the 1,600MWe Areva design widely known as the European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) but renamed for the US market as the US Evolutionary Power Reactor (US EPR).

Thomas Christopher, CEO of Areva Inc, the French state-owned firm’s US subsidiary, said: “Our US EPR plants will be made in America by Americans for Americans – American engineering, American construction and many American companies.”

Areva would be the prime contractor on any Unistar build projects, providing the reactor, support systems, instrumentation and control system and intitial fuel load. Bechtel would also support the project, most likely as architect-engineer and constructor, and it is envisioned that Constellation would operate any EPR fleet, holding the operating licenses. Unistar would form joint ventures for each building project which limit Constellation’s financial commitment to the formation of business platform and business development activities.

The new arrangement means the withdrawal of Constellation’s Calvert Cliffs and Nine Mile Point sites from consideration as part of the NuStart consortium which is testing the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) Combined Operating Licence procedure.

A Unistar press release stated that because Constellation had chosen Areva’s technology, the sites were not appropriate for NuStart whose members include General Electric (GE) and Westinghouse. NuStart is considering GE’s ESBWR and Westinghouse’s AP1000.

Constellation, however, remain committed to NuStart and will continue to provide financial support. NuStart’s remaining siting options are: Bellefonte, Alabama; Grand Gulf, Missouri; River Bend, Louisiana and Savannah River, a US Department of Energy site in South Carolina.

Areva’s US office has around 200 engineers working to gain design verification of EPR as a standard plant by the NRC. Areva intend to finally apply for certification by the end of 2007. Unistar claim one of its EPRs could produce energy by 2015.

UniStar Nuclear is headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland.

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