Berman, the Foreign Affairs panel’s top Democrat, said in his own statement on Friday that the risk is that “more countries may follow Iran’s example and construct, quote-unquote, ‘peaceful’ nuclear-fuel facilities whose real purpose is to provide the country, and possibly terrorist groups, the fuel for nuclear weapons that are meant to be used against us."
“The U.S.,” he added, “must only engage in nuclear cooperation in circumstances that are not going to be conducive to proliferation.”
For its part, the Nuclear Energy Institute has not yet taken a position on whether it supports the gold standard, if voluntarily embraced by other nations in the wake of the 2009 UAE pledge.
“The nuclear energy industry takes the ‘gold standard’ issue very seriously and is in the process of finalizing its formal position statement,” which should be available in coming days, said NEI spokesman Thomas Kauffman in a written response to questions.
Perhaps the greatest thrust of the nuclear industry’s pitch on Capitol Hill, though, is related to the U.S. economy and jobs. A fact sheet the Nuclear Energy Institute has circulated in Congress cites a Commerce Department estimate that the international market for nuclear equipment and services could reach $740 billion in the next decade.
“As a rule of thumb, every $1 billion of exports by U.S. companies supports 5,000 to 10,000 domestic jobs,” the fact sheet states.
One of the industry sources said it would be “impossible” to project how many of these jobs might be lost if the House bill allowing for congressional up-or-down votes on selected nuclear trade pacts becomes law.
An NEI statement about H.R. 1280 released last year, attributed to the group’s senior lobbyist, suggested otherwise.
The legislation “threatens thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars in exports by U.S. companies,” said Alex Flint, NEI senior vice president for governmental affairs. “Without a Section 123 agreement, there are no contracts, no supply relationships, and waning U.S. influence on nuclear nonproliferation or nuclear safety.”
Flint also asserted that “with the sole exception of United Arab Emirates, U.S. requests that potential trading partners forswear enrichment and reprocessing activities have been publicly rejected as an infringement of their sovereign rights.”
Recent events, though, may have overtaken this contention. Word on Capitol Hill is that, in dialogue with Washington diplomats, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have both indicated a willingness to consider some form of no-enrichment-and-reprocessing pledge in respective bilateral accords. The U.S. government has not addressed the latest details of these ongoing talks in public statements.