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NEI Urges DOE to Amend Nuclear Export Rule

Dec. 3, 2013—The Energy Department’s proposed rule to amend the regulation governing nuclear energy technology exports retains “fundamental deficiencies” that would continue to impose unjustified competitive disadvantages on U.S. companies participating in the global market for commercial reactor technology, NEI said last week.

The rules governing the export of commercial nuclear energy technology, services and technical assistance are set forth in regulation 10 CFR Part 810. The Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service have separately concluded that Part 810 regulations as currently written create significant impediments to commercial nuclear exports by U.S. suppliers. The nuclear energy industry recommended several revisions to DOE’s 2011 proposed rule, some of which have been incorporated in the current version.

Richard Myers, NEI’s vice president for policy development, planning and supplier programs, noted in comments filed Nov. 27 that DOE’s 2013 revision includes significant improvements. However, he said, without the further changes to the rule recommended by the industry, “all of the purposes of the Part 810 regulation—effective threat reduction, effective nuclear trade support and efficient regulation—are harmed.”

NEI urged DOE to close the wide gap in processing time between a U.S. nuclear export license and the equivalent licenses of other leading nuclear energy supplier countries. DOE requires more than a year to process a typical Part 810 authorization, compared to 15 to 90 days for equivalent licenses issued by the governments of Japan, South Korea and Russia. 

DOE “appears to have no clear goals for improving processing times and no firm deadlines for completing these reforms,” Myers wrote.

NEI also recommends alternatives to the “specific authorization” requirement for countries not included in DOE’s proposed list of generally authorized countries. The 2013 proposal would reclassify 77 countries to require specific authorization.  

NEI made related recommendations for China, India and Russia, which would remain subject to the specific authorization requirement despite their “important bilateral and multilateral nonproliferation commitments,” which include Section 123 nuclear cooperation agreements with the United States. NEI urged DOE to develop a new process based on these commitments to enable expedited authorizations, such as on a project basis.

China and India, NEI notes, plan to construct the majority of the world’s new civilian nuclear energy facilities between now and 2030, and China in particular represents “probably the largest market for nuclear goods and services in the next two decades.”

The U.S. Department of Commerce has estimated that the international market for nuclear-related equipment and services could be as much as $740 billion over the next 10 years and that every $1 billion of exports by U.S. companies would create or support 5,000 to 10,000 domestic jobs.

More than 70 nuclear energy facilities are under construction worldwide, 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 said.