Monday, May 13, 2013

Leveling the Board for Nuclear Trade

A letter in the Baltimore Sun suggests the paper  had featured an interesting op-ed recently. First, the letter:

Dan Ervin's commentary on lifting restrictions on U.S. companies supplying nuclear power equipment abroad is completely misleading ("A nuclear opportunity," May 6).

Nuclear energy is not, as Mr. Ervin says, pollutant free or carbon free. Government regulations allow nuclear power plants to deliberately' and routinely emit hundreds of thousands of curies of radioactive gases and other radioactive elements into the environment every day. Radiation cannot be seen, felt or tasted, so I'm wondering if this is why Mr. Ervin feels he can credibly say that nuclear power is pollution free.

Hundreds of thousands – every day? Radiation as pollution? Well, they write letters, don’t they?

But what about Ervin’s editorial?

Companies supplying components for the nuclear power industry are located throughout the United States, including a number in Maryland. These manufacturing firms have developed businesses providing components and equipment required for the maintenance and upkeep of the 104 operating reactors in the U.S. Unfortunately for them, the domestic market is expanding at a very low rate. Currently in the U.S., ground has been broken for five new reactors.

These supplying firms would benefit if allowed to participate in the growing international market. However, presently they have difficulty engaging in the growing international market for nuclear power — and part of the problem lies within our own government.

This really is a topic that has engaged the industry, particularly the segment of it that manufactures parts. Nationalized or semi-nationalized nuclear energy industries – France and Russia are examples - can move quickly to secure contracts to build reactors and supply parts and services. The United States, meanwhile, is hamstrung by the welter of agencies that have to sign off on any attempt by private industry to do so.

It’s not just nationalized industries that get this leg up. For example, South Korea has had considerable success exporting its technology, building the Barakah facility in UAE.

U.S. nuclear export licensing procedures can be needlessly difficult. They are increasingly complex, restrictive and time-consuming for companies to navigate. The U.S. process for getting the appropriate export licenses is divided among three departments (State, Commerce and Energy). Furthermore, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission administers four different sets of associated regulations. By contrast, comparable export licensing in most other countries is handled by one agency.

One runs the risk of sounding like a poor loser, because it sounds as though the nuclear industry is trying to tilt the board to its advantage. But you have to get the board level before you can tilt it – there’s little question that America can be competitive in terms of technology. In terms of all the other elements that make up trade, well, who knows? It would be nice to find out.

Ervin’s conclusion is pretty close to NEI’s.

A faster, straightforward licensing process would give American nuclear companies a chance to compete for this rapidly growing international business. It is not too late to make a change, but something needs to be done now. The potential reward (in economic value, job creation and protection, and tax revenue) makes the international nuclear power business too important to U.S. vital interests to neglect.

Terrific op-ed on a somewhat inside nuclear baseball topic. It inspired a reader to complain, after all.

NEI has some pages that go into more detail on nuclear trade. Go here to get started.

1 comment:

SteveK9 said...

Wonder if this will help:

Westinghouse, China's SNPTC Form AP1000 Supplier Certification Joint Venture