Federal regulators denied a license Thursday to the French-controlled company for a proposed third nuclear reactor at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Southern Maryland, giving the company 60 days to find a U.S. partner.
At the end of those 60 days, the three judges of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board wrote, they would be forced to terminate the company's application proceedings entirely.
The decision follows warnings from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in April 2011 that UniStar Nuclear Energy, which is owned by Electricite de France, is not eligible to control the proposed $9.6 billion Calvert Cliffs 3 project under its current ownership structure. Federal law prohibits a foreign entity from completely owning or controlling a U.S. nuclear plant.
Regulators said in April 2011 that they would continue to process EDF's existing application for licensing while the company sought a partner.
The board said Thursday that while "60 days may seem a short period of time in which to obtain a domestic partner," UniStar has already had two years to do so.
Until November 2010, UniStar had been owned in "near-equal shares" by Constellation Energy Group and EDF, the judges wrote.
But after Constellation pulled out of negotiations with the Department of Energy over a federal loan guarantee considered critical to the project, EDF acquired Constellation's 50 percent interest in UniStar and decided to push forward with the project on its own.
Recent low natural gas prices have raised questions about the project's viability.
The company has said in the past that it will find a U.S. partner and ultimately complete the project.