WASHINGTON, D.C.—The following is a statement by Alex Flint, senior vice president for governmental affairs at the Nuclear Energy Institute, on H.R. 1280, which was reported today by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“We strongly urge congressional leadership to recognize the importance of commercial nuclear engagement permitted under Section 123 agreements to achieving our national security and foreign policy objectives and reject H.R. 1280 in its current form. The bill represents a significant challenge to U.S. influence in nuclear safety and nonproliferation matters globally and threatens thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars in exports by U.S. companies.
“Provisions in this act will reduce U.S. engagement in global commercial nuclear technology development. Reducing U.S. engagement will not limit access of these nations to nuclear energy technology. It will merely encourage these nations to partner with other supplier nations that may or may not place the same high value on nuclear safety and security as the United States. Further, it will restrict U.S. participation in a $50-billion annual global market, which will equate to sacrificing thousands of high-paying American jobs.
“These agreements establish long-term supply relationships that knit them to U.S. safety and security standards for decades to come. As a result, U.S. best practices on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear safety could be adopted by other nations. Without a Section 123 agreement, there are no contracts, no supply relationships, and waning U.S. influence on nuclear nonproliferation or nuclear safety.
“The bill’s unilateral approach to enrichment and reprocessing would severely impact America’s important influence in these areas. H.R. 1280 aims to reduce proliferation risks by requiring new partners in a Section 123 agreement to forego enrichment or reprocessing of commercial nuclear fuel within their nation. Applied multilaterally, such a provision could effectively address a global nuclear proliferation risk. Applied unilaterally, as in H.R. 1280, the provision will certainly fail. Worse, it will marginalize U.S. influence in global nonproliferation matters.
“With the sole exception of United Arab Emirates, U.S. requests that potential trading partners forswear enrichment and reprocessing activities have been publicly rejected as an infringement of their sovereign rights, which are protected by Article IV of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It is clear that if the United States makes renunciation of enrichment and reprocessing rights a prerequisite for trade, the outcome will be few, if any, new Section 123 agreements.
“Congressional oversight of commercial nuclear trade agreements has been successful and has been exercised in a manner that enables the U.S. to pursue new agreements effectively. There is no compelling reason to amend current consent provisions and significantly delay or limit the number of agreements without any benefit to U.S. foreign policy goals.”