The global spread of nuclear energy for electricity can help meet the United States’ long-term economic needs. The U.S. Commerce Department projects the global nuclear market for technology alone at $500 billion to $740 billion over the next decade. U.S. industries could create or sustain up to 185,000 jobs if they were captured 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 to build a $10 billion nuclear reactor project; the Temelin nuclear project could bring as many as 9,000 jobs to the United States and help diversify the Czech Republic’s energy supply away from Russia.
But it takes a year or more for federal agencies to process applications for export licenses. That’s much longer than other industrial countries like France, Germany, Russia and Korea that are competing for the same nuclear contracts.
This bureaucratic red tape is a reminder that the Obama administration has barely made a dent in efforts to achieve regulatory reform. For example, 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.
The Nuclear Energy Institute characterized the U.S. licensing process as “more complex, restrictive and time-consuming” than the process in other countries. The administration has a clear responsibility to streamline the export license process, for which South Carolina’s exports alone totaled more than $24.6 billion sold last year to 198 countries.