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Joseph Cunniffe sees the proposed third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs as a huge opportunity for his Sykesville-based firm GSE Systems, which develops simulation and training systems for the power-generation industry.

So did more than 100 companies that gathered Thursday in Baltimore for an event drawing suppliers and vendors looking to do business with Areva, the world's largest reactor maker, which is designing and building the proposed third unit with construction company Bechtel.

"We've never worked with Areva before. We would like to," said Cunniffe, GSE Systems' marketing consultant, who estimates that a partnership could bring the firm $10 million to $20 million in revenue.

Under a joint venture called Unistar Nuclear Energy, Constellation Energy Group and French utility Electricite de France want to build new nuclear plants in the U.S., including one at Calvert Cliffs. So far, the proposed unit at Lusby has received approval by Maryland energy regulators and been chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy for "final due diligence" for a federal loan guarantee considered key to financing the unit. The companies are also awaiting approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

While neither company has made a definite decision to build the proposed third unit, each said it's committed to pursuing the project.

Likewise, Areva needs to begin identifying companies that meet its standards and can help supply and build the 1,600-megawatt reactor in Southern Maryland, said Michael W. Rencheck, president and chief executive officer of Areva NP Inc.

There are thousands of parts and pieces of equipment - everything from steel beams to pumps to valves - involved in building a nuclear unit, Rencheck said. Areva wants 90 percent of the proposed unit's content and construction completed in the United States, especially in Maryland, he said.

If the approvals go through, groundbreaking would begin by 2013 and the plant would come on line in 2017, Rencheck said.

An economic benefits study commissioned by Areva noted nearly 2,100 jobs would be created in the first year of construction. At the peak of the project, that would grow to 7,670 jobs, Rencheck said. Once the plant is operational, it will have 400 to 700 permanent jobs, he said.

The study also concluded that the project would create payroll tax revenues at the local, state and federal levels of $56 million its first year to $204.8 million at its peak.

The third Calvert Cliffs reactor became a recent battle between supporters and opponents of Constellation's deal to sell half its nuclear power business to EDF, which was completed earlier this month.

The companies warned that the new unit would not move forward if the Maryland Public Service Commission rejected or put excessive conditions on the deal.

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