Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nuclear Commerce: Governmentwide Strategy Could Help Increase Commercial Benefits from U.S. Nuclear Cooperation Agreements with Other Countries -- GAO

This Report (GAO-11-36 November 4, 2010) by the Government Accountability Office finds that no single federal agency systematically tracks and reports the data necessary to determine the amount and value of U.S. nuclear exports facilitated by U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements.

Data from the departments of Commerce, Energy (DOE), State, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) contain gaps and in some cases were not sufficiently detailed for GAO's reporting purposes. Using data from the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics database, GAO found that the United States' share of global exports of nuclear material, reactors, and components has declined in the last 15 years.

The U.S. also imports sensitive nuclear material, nuclear reactors, major components and equipment, and minor reactor parts from other countries. GAO found that in sum, the United States was a net importer of nuclear components and materials, which may indicate a lack of comparative advantage in this industry.

Commerce has an initiative to coordinate interagency efforts and identify and respond to the U.S. nuclear industry's trade policy challenges, but the initiative has made limited progress and does not include a well-defined strategy to support and promote U.S. nuclear industry efforts to compete globally. DOE, NRC, and State officials told us they rely on Commerce to develop and lead U.S. nuclear industry export promotion activities.

Commerce, State, and DOE officials as well as U.S. industry representatives identified challenges facing the U.S. nuclear industry, including a decline in domestic manufacturing capabilities, increased international competition, and U.S. industry's liability concerns.

In particular, industry representatives told us they believe that DOE's regulations are outdated and place U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage. GAO recommends that Commerce (1) identify additional nuclear data that may better quantify the export benefits of nuclear cooperation agreements, (2) review its strategy document to identify markets and include benchmarks for evaluating progress, and (3) consider ways the interagency trade promotion committee may obtain a comprehensive range of U.S. industry views.

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