House Republicans ask GAO to look at U.S. nuclear export policy

Two top Republicans on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, including committee chair Fred Upton of Michigan, wrote a July 11 letter to the Government Accountability Office asking for a look at U.S. nuclear export policy.

The committee is examining how current policies and Obama Administration efforts affect opportunities for enhancing and expanding U.S. manufacturing and competitiveness, both for strengthening domestic economic growth and for the benefit of U.S. influence over international nuclear safety and nuclear security. The other author of the GAO letter is Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

“As part of this oversight, we are examining how the Department of Energy (DOE) authorizes exports of nuclear technology and services, and otherwise implements its 10 C.F.R. 810 (part 810) regulations pertaining to requirements of section 57b of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954,” said the letter. “In light of this work, we write to seek Government Accountability Office (GAO) assistance with regard to DOE Part 810 authorizations.”

With 63 new reactors under construction and 322 operating world-wide, there is substantial economic opportunity for U.S. companies and workers, the letter noted. The Commerce Department estimates that every $1bn of exports by U.S. companies represents 5,000 to 10,000 jobs.

“The ability of U.S. companies to supply materials, engineering services, components and technical data for the construction, operation, and servicing of nuclear power plants outside the United States depends on a number of criteria, including the timely issuance of U.S. export licenses and Part 810 authorizations,” the letter added.

The committee would like GAO to address various questions, including:

  • How does current implementation of the Part 810 meet the obligations and achieve the goals of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954?
  • What criteria are used to determine whether to grant a Part 810 authorization, and how are those criteria different from the security review mandated under the Atomic Energy Act Section 123, authorizing a nuclear cooperation agreement?
  • How responsive have U.S. agencies been to companies seeking Part 810 authorizations for technology exports?
  • What is the scope of technology, know-how, and technical skills transferred under the Part 810 authorization process?
  • To what extent have DOE and U.S. agencies rejected applications for Part 810 authorizations due to security, proliferation, or other concerns?
  • What controls are in place with regard to the re-transfer of U.S.-origin nuclear technology after it has been exported under a Part 810 authorization? To what extent has DOE allowed or refused the re-transfer of U.S.-origin nuclear technology?
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.