Foreign Policy Blogs

Newsflash: Nuke Industry Doesn’t Like to be Regulated

 

I know.  Shocking, isn’t it?  But, that’s essentially what the Nuclear Energy Institute is saying in its totally unsurprising new report, “Nuclear Export Controls: A Comparative Analysis of National Regimes for the Control of Nuclear Materials, Components and Technology.” Issued on October 1st, the report was done by James A. Glasgow, Elina Teplinsky and Stephen L. Markus at white-shoe law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.  The aim of the analysis was to “evaluate whether U.S. commercial nuclear exporters do, in fact, face a competitive disadvantage because of the U.S. export control regime and, if such burdens exist, to identify them.”  In so doing, the folks at Pillsbury conducted a comparative analysis of the commercial nuclear export control regimes of major supplier countries – Russia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and France – and compares these regimes to the U.S. nuclear export control regime.

The report “revealed that the U.S. regime is more complex, restrictive and time-consuming than other regimes examined in the study.  Taken together, the differences between the U.S. and non-U.S. regimes impose a competitive disadvantage on commercial nuclear exporters from the United States.”

REALLY? Really NEI?

Now, once you pick yourself off of the floor, let’s parse the conclusion a bit, shall we?

First, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is one of the world’s foremost law firms to focus on nuclear energy issues.  According to the website, they” field[s] one of the world’s top nuclear energy teams, with the specific knowledge and historical perspective to help you take full advantage of developments in this field.”  They even represented the owner/operator of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant during its big meltdown in ’79!

So, the report’s findings were, perhaps, not so objective?

Second, as I wrote in a piece for CSIS last November, the thing that’s really hurting the U.S. nuclear industry is NOT all of those pesky regulations that help to prevent proliferation of nuclear technology and materials to dodgy regimes  and terrorists, but the massive subsidies and unflinching support that other governments, including those in Russia, Japan, the ROK and France give to their nuke industries.  In the CSIS piece, I noted that the now former President of France, Monsieur Sarkozy himself traveled to the UAE to stump for the French nuclear industry.  Could you see our President, or even our Vice President doing that?  Yeah.  Didn’t think so.  And it makes a difference.

Finally, do we really want to emulate the countries that gave us the Fukushima debacle, Chornobyl and Bushehr? Not so much.

So, in short, this “report” is yet another cry for help from the ailing nuclear industry – cue the melodramatic flailing of hands and fanning of women getting the vapors – which is ailing NOT because the U.S. government wants to keep the “bad guys” from getting the bomb, but because the U.S. nuclear industry is not being assisted by the U.S. government in promoting their commercial interests in the same way that their competitors’ governments do.

 

Author

Jodi Lieberman
Jodi Lieberman

Jodi Lieberman is a veteran of the arms control, nonproliferation, nuclear terrorism and nuclear safety trenches, having worked at the Departments of State, Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She has also served in an advisory capacity and as professional staff for several members of Congress in both the House and Senate as well as the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Jodi currently spends her time advocating for science issues and funding as the Senior Government Affairs Specialist at the American Physical Society. The views expressed in her posts are her views based on her professional experience but in way should be construed to represent those of her employer.

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