WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Energy Department’s proposed rule governing nuclear energy technology exports includes significant improvements over its 2011 proposal, yet still would raise unnecessary impediments for U.S. companies participating in the highly competitive global market for commercial reactor technology, services and technical assistance.
These barriers, together with process flaws not addressed in the proposed rule, would continue to place U.S. firms at a severe disadvantage in fast-growing markets such as China and India, where a majority of new nuclear energy facilities will be built.
In comments filed today with DOE, the Nuclear Energy Institute urged the agency to close the gap in processing times between the Part 810 specific authorizations and equivalent licenses issued by the governments of international competitors. The Energy Department typically requires more than a year to process a Part 810 authorization, compared to 15 to 90 days for equivalent licenses in Japan, South Korea and Russia.
NEI encouraged DOE to complete its initiative to make meaningful efficiency improvements to the Part 810 process. DOE “appears to have no clear goals for improving processing times and no firm deadlines for completing these reforms,” Richard Myers, NEI vice president for policy development, planning and supplier programs, wrote in NEI’s comments on the proposed rule.
NEI also requested that the DOE develop new approaches to diminish commercial harm from its proposed reclassification of 77 countries that will require a time-consuming authorization from the secretary of Energy before U.S. suppliers can bid for work in those nations. “DOE’s proposed classification of 77 countries to require specific authorization without a demonstrated rationale for doing so would disadvantage U.S. suppliers…and restrict the access of U.S. suppliers to the expanding global nuclear energy supply chain,” Myers wrote.
The demand for high-quality commodities, components and services provides a meaningful export opportunity for U.S. manufacturers. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that the international market for equipment and services related to nuclear energy is as much as $740 billion over the next 10 years. Every $1 billion of exports by U.S. companies creates or supports 5,000 to 10,000 domestic jobs.
To access lucrative foreign markets, U.S. companies must adhere to the DOE regulations contained in Part 810 of the Code of Federal Regulations governing the export of commercial nuclear energy technology. The regulation lacks transparency, predictability and efficiency and is long overdue for modernization. The Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service, in separate reports, concluded that the Part 810 authorization process creates a significant impediment to commercial nuclear exports by U.S. suppliers.
While the industry acknowledges recent efforts by DOE to make the proposed Part 810 rule consistent with global nuclear trade practices and nonproliferation regimes, key impediments in the proposed rule remain.
Worldwide, more than 70 nuclear energy facilities are under construction, and an additional 160 are in the licensing or advanced planning stages. “Every new or unnecessary burden to U.S. competitiveness will harm U.S. exports, U.S. influence over nonproliferation policies around the world, and job creation,” Myers wrote.