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How U.S. Nuclear Energy Export Regulations Are Hindering American Business and Costing Jobs

Construction at the Sanmen Nuclear Power Station in China.
Earlier this week, the law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw LLP issued a report concerning the legal and regulatory obstacles that stand in the way of U.S. companies fully capitalizing on the international growth of the nuclear energy industry.

From the NEI press release:
To the detriment of U.S. national security interests and the economy, U.S. energy companies and manufacturers face impediments in capitalizing on the enormous market opportunities presented by the global growth of nuclear energy, business and industry leaders said today in unveiling a new report on nuclear export challenges.

The report comparing nuclear energy trade regimes in five leading supplier nations concludes that “the U.S. export control regime places (U.S. companies) at a serious disadvantage next to their competitors in the international export market.”
Following the release of the report, representatives from Pillsbury, NEI, Exelon Generation and the National Association of Manufacturers held a press conference to discuss the findings of the report in more detail (click here for the presentation slides). In the wake of the press conference, here's what BloombergBusiness Week had to report:
Regulations unchanged since the end of the Cold War impede U.S. companies in gaining export licenses, putting suppliers at a global disadvantage, according to a report released today by the Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington-based group whose members include Exelon Corp. (EXC) and Southern Co. (SO)

U.S. rules are “more complex, restrictive and time- consuming to fulfill” than in France, Japan, Russia and South Korea, where competing suppliers are based, according to the report. The global market may be worth a quarter of a trillion dollars within a decade.
Given that we're in the midst of a Presidential election where job creation is the most pressing concern, these aren't exactly idle questions. Here's some coverage from E2 Wire at The Hill:
Specifically, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) says DOE should change a rule, known as Part 810, to enhance exports to a list of restricted nations for products — such as consulting services and software — that it says do not pose a nuclear proliferation threat.

The rule change would allow U.S. commercial nuclear firms to discuss operations with foreign partners more freely, according to NEI.

The group said the rule change would remove a competitive disadvantage for U.S. firms in the global market.

Currently, the rule requires U.S. companies to obtain advance authorization to speak about nuclear plans with a list of restricted countries, out of concern for nuclear proliferation. On average in 2011, that clearance took a little less than one year, according to a NEI-commissioned report discussed Monday.

DOE issued a proposed update to the rule in September 2011, but that significantly increased the amount of technology subjected to agency authorization. The nuclear industry criticized the rule, and DOE decided to revise it once again — a process that is still ongoing.
So how much is at stake for American business? Here's Platts:
The US Department of Commerce estimates the world market for nuclear power technology, fuel and related services and equipment at "upwards of" $750 billion over the next 10 years, Richard Myers, vice president for policy development, planning and supplier programs at NEI, said at a press conference Monday in Washington to release a report the US nuclear power industry commissioned on the topic.

"It is a myth that the US nuclear supply chain has disappeared," Myers said. Most manufacturing of large "heavy metal" components for nuclear power plants, such as reactor vessels, is now done in Asia, but many US firms manufacture "precision components" for the nuclear industry and would stand to benefit from increased ability to compete with other countries, Myers said.
For additional coverage see Fuel Fix, Energy Biz, Nuclear Engineering International and NAM Shopfloor.

Comments

donb said…
I seems like there are still too many people in regulatory positions in the Federal Government who think that the United States can control who in the world can get access to nuclear technology. The truth is there are now multiple sources of such technology outside of the United States. Hanging on to regulations from the old control mindset only hinders the access of US-based manufacturers to international nuclear energy equipment markets without making any significant impact in the area of proliferation.

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