The global spread of nuclear energy for electrical production provides opportunities for helping to meet the United States’ long-term economic needs. In sales of nuclear technology alone, the U.S. Department of Commerce estimates the global nuclear market at $500 billion to $740 billion over the next decade.
U.S. industries could create or sustain up to 185,000 American jobs if they were able to capture a quarter of that market, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.
Competition for this business is fierce. It’s why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently visited the Czech Republic in an attempt to convince that country’s leaders of the advantages of picking Westinghouse over a Russian rival as the contractor for a $10 billion nuclear reactor project.
U.S. officials said the Temelin nuclear project could bring as many as 9,000 jobs to the United States and would help diversify the Czech Republic’s energy supply away from Russia.
There’s one problem for U.S. companies: They may be left out of the parade unless our government takes steps to issue export licenses more expeditiously. Currently, it takes a year or more for federal agencies to process applications that can be completed far faster in other industrial countries such as France, Germany, Russia and South Korea that are competing for the same nuclear contracts.
Bureaucratic red tape puts U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage – a reminder that the Obama administration has barely made a dent in efforts to achieve regulatory reform. For example, in the United States, export control regulations for nuclear components and equipment are divided among the departments of State, Energy and Commerce in addition to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, whereas other countries use a single agency for processing applications.
In a recent study by the NEI, the U.S. licensing process is characterized as “more complex, restrictive and time-consuming” than the process in other supplier countries, leaving U.S. companies at a serious competitive disadvantage. Given such disparity, the administration has a clear responsibility to streamline the export license process, for which South Carolina’s and Georgia’s exports alone totaled more than $59 billion in goods sold last year to more than 200 countries around the world.
North Augusta, S.C.
(The writer is a retired program manager from Savannah River Site.)