Industry Urges Prompt Conclusion of Nuclear Trade Agreements

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Engagement in the expanding global nuclear market can advance U.S. goals for nuclear safety and nonproliferation while creating tens of thousands of jobs domestically, the chief executive of the Nuclear Energy Institute told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today.

"There are 71 new nuclear power stations under construction worldwide, including five that are under construction in the United States. An additional 172 are in the licensing and advanced planning stages and virtually all of these plants will be built abroad where the demand for reliable, affordable and clean baseload electricity is growing," said Marvin Fertel, NEI's president and chief executive officer.

"Although major components such as ultra-large forgings and reactor pressure vessels are no longer manufactured in the United States, the U.S. nuclear industry continues to manufacture a wide range of equipment, components and fuel for nuclear power plants around the world," Fertel said. "Nuclear exports support manufacturing jobs in more than 30 states."

If U.S. exporters were able to capture 25 percent of the global market—estimated at $500 billion to $750 billion over the next 10 years—this would create or sustain up to 185,000 high-paying American jobs, Fertel said.

"To create American jobs and support critical U.S. foreign policy interests, the United States must be fully engaged in the global expansion of nuclear energy already under way," Fertel added.

He expressed industry support for efforts to limit the spread of uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel reprocessing technologies consistent with current U.S. policy. However, industry opposes proposals to condition U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements on new terms regarding enrichment and reprocessing "that our potential partners will not accept and other supplier nations will not require," Fertel said.

Referencing the Section 123 provisions of the Atomic Energy Act that govern civilian nuclear cooperation agreements, he said, "pragmatism should continue to guide the United States as it negotiates Section 123 agreements. NEI supports flexibility in the Atomic Energy Act that allows the executive branch to negotiate agreements based on the concerns and imperatives specific to each nation or region."

Fertel encouraged the Obama administration to "secure agreements early and with a broad set of partners rather than to sit idly by as these nations partner with other nuclear suppliers."

Other nations supplying nuclear energy technology—chief among them Russia, France, Japan and South Korea—are ready to engage in projects with other countries "whether or not those countries have concluded a 123 agreement with the United States. As a result, the net effect of refusing to conclude 123 agreements with countries that are unwilling to forswear enrichment and reprocessing would be to encourage them to do business with other suppliers, thereby foregoing the economic and national security benefits of commercial nuclear engagement," Fertel said.

Describing the significant changes in civilian nuclear commerce over the past 20 years, Fertel noted that more than 60 percent of the world's 437 operating reactors are based on technology developed in the United States. In contrast, of the reactors under construction globally, 11 are U.S. designs, four are French and 16 are Russian. Similarly, 20 of the 71 reactors under construction are Chinese reactors being built in China.

"Over the past two decades, new supplier nations have entered the growing global nuclear market and multi-national partnerships and consortia have been formed to develop nuclear energy facilities," Fertel said.

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Source:Nuclear Energy Institute