As described in its text, the purpose of the International Nuclear Energy Act of 2022 is to facilitate a “whole-of-government” strategy for international nuclear cooperation, to reassert U.S. global leadership in civil nuclear technologies, and combat the growing Russian and Chinese influence over civil nuclear energy programs across the globe. According to a statement by Senator Risch accompanying the bill, these concerns have been heightened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Given the surge in geopolitical threats and energy security concerns, the continued and growing threat of nuclear proliferation, and the urgent fight against climate change, U.S. global nuclear leadership is vital. Senator Risch stated that U.S. leadership is “critical to ensuring the security of energy supplies for ourselves and our allies, global standards for nonproliferation and other national security interests, and economic growth.”
The proposed legislation seeks to operationalize these ambitions, by creating an office to coordinate collaboration with partner nations on technical best practices, financing, security, and R&D. It also encourages investment in nuclear supply chains, particularly for nuclear fuels, and establishes a variety of working groups to facilitate exchange between and among U.S. government offices, nuclear industry leaders, and partner countries.
China and Russia maintain their own state-owned and sponsored nuclear suppliers which allows them to provide competitive financing for their nuclear exports that U.S. suppliers have not been able to match. The proposed legislation aims to remedy this by enhancing relationships between private civil nuclear vendors and the government, expanding the Export-Import Bank program to include civil nuclear facilities and related goods, and creating fast-track procedures for civil nuclear exports for countries as defined by DOE. Below are a few examples of the collaborative, civil nuclear programs and initiatives contained in the Act.
- Establishes office for civil nuclear energy cooperation. The legislation proposes to create the Office of the Assistant to the President and Director for Nuclear Energy Policy, which would report directly to the President. This Office would coordinate and develop strategy for engagement with foreign governments on civil nuclear strategy and export policy; establish financing relationships; promote regulatory harmonization; enhance safeguards and security; promote standardization of licensing frameworks; and create a "Nuclear Exports Working Group" with representation across the U.S. Government and tasked in part with creating a ten-year civil nuclear trade strategy. (Section 3, pages 6-8). An authorization of $2,000,000 would be appropriated to carry out this initiative for each year between 2023 and 2027. (Section 3, Page 12).
- Biennial nuclear safety, security, safeguards, and sustainability summits. Agencies including Energy, State, Defense, Commerce, and the NRC would hold the first summit on these issues 180 days after the date of enactment of this legislation. (Section 10, page 29). The first summit will focus on nuclear safety, security and safeguards, and the second is intended for civil nuclear vendors, and to enhance cooperative relationships between private industry and government, relating to the safe and secure use, storage, and transport of nuclear and radiological materials and management of evolving cyber threats. (Section 10, Page 30).
- Setting up the Advanced Reactor Coordination and Resource Center. This center would identify qualified organization and service providers; coordinate with participating countries; support multinational regulatory standards to be developed by countries with civil nuclear programs and experience; and develop and strengthen communication, engagement, and consensus-building. (Section 11, pages 32-34).
- U.S. Nuclear Fuels Security Program to reduce and eventually eliminate reliance on Chinese and Russian nuclear fuels. This initiative would accelerate the domestic production of low-enriched uranium to reduce reliance by the U.S. and its allies on nuclear fuels from Russia and China. Additionally, this initiative would accelerate the domestic production of high-assay low enriched uranium to meet the needs of the Department of Energy consortium established under Section 2001 of the Energy Policy Act of 2020. (Section 16, pages 49, 51). Production is to ensure the availability of domestically produced and converted uranium in an amount deemed sufficient by DOE to address the anticipated supply disruption and promote the deployment of U.S. uranium enrichment technology. This initiative would establish a National Strategic Uranium Reserve and continue the American Assured Fuel Supply Program. (Section 16, Pages 52-54). A total of $3,500,000,000 is authorized to be appropriated to the Nuclear Fuel Security Program between September 2023 and September 2031. (Section 16, Page 60).
- Cooperation with allies and partners on advanced nuclear reactor demonstrations and cooperative research facilities. No later than two years after the enactment of this legislation, the Secretary of State in coordination with other agencies will conduct bilateral and multilateral meetings with allied or partner nations to enhance nuclear energy cooperation with respect to R&D, licensing, and deployment of advanced reactor technology. (Section 7, pages 20-21). Meetings between the parties should also focus on demonstrating and deploying advanced reactors in the next ten years to address climate change by 2050 and developing an agreement between the U.S. and allied and partner nations for the demonstration and deployment of advanced nuclear reactors and the development of cooperative research facilities. (Section 7, Page 22).
For additional information regarding the proposed legislation, please contact the blog authors, Amy Roma, Partner, Stephanie Fishman, Associate or Rob Matsick, Associate.
Authored by Amy Roma, Stephanie Fishman, and Rob Matsick.