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Business Associations Urge Assertive Approach to Nuclear Trade

July 16, 2013—NEI, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are asking the administration to adopt a more determined approach to increasing international trade in nuclear goods and technologies.

A July 12 letter from the three organizations to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz urges the administration to actively foster U.S. commercial engagement with nations pursuing peaceful nuclear energy programs.

“We strongly encourage the administration to promote such engagement aggressively by, among other things, rapidly concluding cooperative agreements with countries that have decided to pursue nuclear energy and promptly renewing expiring agreements with existing U.S. trading partners,” the letter said.

“Unyielding and inflexible insistence on [unilateral enrichment and reprocessing restrictions] … threatens the ability of the United States to engage in nuclear cooperation with countries embarking on civil nuclear programs, thereby jeopardizing the safety, security, nonproliferation and economic benefits of such cooperation,” the letter continued.

It calls attention to the highly competitive and global nature of today’s international nuclear energy market.

“Nuclear suppliers from such countries as France, Japan, Russia and Korea offer international customers a competitive range of products and services, and a growing number of nations are considering developing civil nuclear energy programs in partnership with these countries rather than the United States,” the letter said. “No longer is the United States the dominant supplier to a global market that will grow to nearly $750 billion over the next decade.”

The letter notes that some countries—for example, Jordan, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia—are not waiting to conclude bilateral “123 agreements” with the United States, which allow trade in nuclear goods and services between the two nations, but instead are moving to obtain nuclear technologies from other trading partners.

“For nations that decide to [pursue nuclear trade with other countries], no nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States is required,” the letter went on. “We therefore are at increasing risk of losing our influence on nuclear safety, security and nonproliferation, to say nothing of the tens of thousands of well-paying American jobs that will not be created.”

The letter highlighted Jordan’s civil nuclear plans as an example of the challenges the U.S. industry faces.

“A nuclear cooperation agreement with Jordan has been under negotiation for nearly four years,” the letter says, “but disagreements about enrichment and reprocessing conditions have delayed its completion. Jordan has nearly finished the technology selection process for its first nuclear power plant, scheduled for completion in 2020, and U.S. firms have been left out.”

In a globalized nuclear marketplace, promoting U.S. trade in nuclear technologies and renewing existing nuclear trade agreements would not only help increase U.S. influence in nuclear safety, nonproliferation and security but also promote an atmosphere of stability, said the letter.

“Given the nuclear energy industry’s requirements for long lead items and use of long-term contracts for nuclear fuel and services, timely renewal of these agreements is critical to maintaining the credibility of the United States as a reliable supplier and partner,” the letter added.
  
The letter notes that the renewal of seven 123 agreements are pending.

Nuclear Energy Overview