WASHINGTON (May 15, 2014) – Opportunities to export U.S. nuclear technology should be expanded and subsidies granted to other forms of power should be eliminated to make the nuclear sector more viable, said the R Street Institute in a new paper released today.

Written by R Street Senior Fellow George David Banks, “A rational approach to U.S. civil nuclear power” examines the current decline in the nuclear sector, which has seen its capacity fall in recent years from premature shutdowns of reactors and burdensome export rules, among other factors. The decline in capacity is particularly alarming given greenhouse gas reduction goals. In 2012, U.S. nuclear plants avoided 570 million metric tons of CO2.

Additionally, access to overseas nuclear markets is crucial to the maintenance of the U.S. private sector’s research and development programs. Globally, the nuclear sector is expanding rapidly, but nonproliferation policies that fail to take into full consideration the current political realities and dynamics in the global market.

“American firms clearly face intense competition from state-owned or state-aligned enterprises, who enjoy significant political and financial support,” said Banks. “This includes favorable financing, subsidies, turnkey services and fuel take-back options.”

Banks warns that the sharp decline in the U.S. nuclear program should disturb any policymaker who understands the national security dimensions of commercial nuclear power, including the dependence of our military on the civil sector.

Rather than argue for new subsidies for the nuclear sector, Banks proposes the sector would be best served by reforming or repealing state-level Renewable Portfolio Standards, ending the federal wind production tax credit and for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure capacity markets adequately compensate assets that provide critical services to the grid.

He also suggests the federal government pursue a pragmatic approach to negotiating and approving international nuclear cooperation.

“Washington should…seek to increase the trade controls of our competitors when pursuing that path makes sense and is plausible,” Banks wrote. “On the other hand, the federal government should reduce unnecessary and redundant bureaucratic red tape that unfairly penalizes the U.S. nuclear industry without any real benefits.”

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