Report: U.S. Firms at 'Serious Disadvantage' to Compete in Global Nuclear Energy Market

'Billions of Dollars in Exports, Tens of Thousands of U.S. Jobs at Risk'

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- 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." The analysis conducted by one of the nation's top law firms with a specialty in energy—Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP—identified three features that make the U.S. commercial nuclear exports regime less favorable than the other regimes in the study:

  • The U.S. regime is more complex and difficult to navigate, evidenced by the division of export licensing and authorization powers among four agencies versus one or two at the most in the other nations.
  • The U.S regime contains added restrictions and legal and bureaucratic hurdles that exceed international norms.
  • The United States is significantly less efficient in processing export licenses, often taking nearly a year or more to process applications completed far faster in other nations.

Senior officials from the National Association of Manufacturers, the Nuclear Energy Institute, Exelon Generation and the Pillsbury Winthrop law firm discussed global nuclear energy market opportunities and challenges during a news conference where the report was released.

National security interests are best served if U.S. suppliers of nuclear energy technology, fuel and services play an active role in the global construction of nuclear energy facilities, said Richard Myers, NEI's vice president for policy development, planning and supplier programs.

"Long-term U.S. influence on global nonproliferation policy and nuclear safety practices, and continued U.S. leadership in nuclear energy technology, require a strong U.S. presence in global commercial nuclear markets," he said.

Billions of dollars in exports and tens of thousands of U.S. jobs are at stake.

"The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates the global commercial nuclear market at $500 billion to $740 billion over the next decade. U.S. exporters could create or sustain up to 185,000 American jobs if they were able to capture just 25 percent of the global market," Myers said.

Worldwide, 434 commercial reactors produce 14 percent of all electricity. Sixty-eight reactors are being built and another 160 ordered or planned. The United States has 104 reactors in 31 states, and five reactors are under construction—two in Georgia, two in South Carolina and one in Tennessee. Nuclear energy facilities generate about one-fifth of U.S. electricity supplies.

Ross Eisenberg, vice president of energy and resources policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, expressed concern that the Obama administration has not applied the same principles to the licensing of commercial nuclear exports as the principles embodied in its larger Export Control Reform Initiative aimed at modernizing export controls for certain non-nuclear items and technologies.

"The ability for manufacturers in the United States to compete globally heavily depends on their ability to increase exports to new and growing markets. Manufacturers are committed to the effort to update and modernize the current export control system and reduce regulations which often impede innovation, research and development and hurt our ability to export. It is critically important that the administration applies the same principles of the Export Control Reform Initiative to the licensing of commercial nuclear exports to ensure that we remain an economically viable and innovative supplier to the global marketplace," Eisenberg said.

James Glasgow, partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, said his firm's comparison of the U.S. export control regime with those of France, Japan, Russia and South Korea "shows clearly that the U.S. regime is more complex, restrictive and time-consuming than the other regimes examined in the study. While there are many features in common among these regimes, there also are distinct differences between the U.S. regime and those of the other supplier nations that leave U.S. companies at a serious competitive disadvantage."

Exelon Generation is the nation's leading competitive power generator and the largest owner and operator of nuclear plants in the United States. Exelon Vice President and Deputy General Counsel J. Bradley Fewell said the global nuclear energy sector functions most safely when the limited supply of specially qualified workers has the ability to reasonably move from country to country.

"International customers avoid export regimes that are difficult or unreliable," Fewell said. "For most countries, energy security is a primary driver for developing new nuclear energy. Reliable supply and predictable tech transfer—including the transfer of skilled professionals—are therefore critical factors in procurement decisions."

Commercial nuclear exports range from reactors, pumps, valves, piping, electrical wiring and components, engineering and construction services, supply of fuel and fuel services, operational support, training, and other services for the 40- to 60-year life of a plant.

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