US organizations' plea to keep nuclear 'czar'

10 May 2016

Four US organizations have urged the US administration to keep the position of director of nuclear energy policy at the National Security Council, saying that the so-called 'nuclear energy policy czar' is crucial to the coordination of US nuclear trade, security and climate policy.

The American Nuclear Society, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), centrist think-tank Third Way, and the US Nuclear Infrastructure Council expressed their "deep concern" over "informed reports" that the White House is contemplating eliminating the position in a letter to Susan Rice, national security advisor to President Obama.

The position of director of nuclear energy policy was created in 2012 to provide a "whole-of-government approach" to strategic commercial and national security considerations relevant to the US nuclear energy export market. Joyce Connery held the post from January 2012 until July 2015, when she was succeeded by Michael Wautlet.

In their letter, the organizations say that the director of nuclear energy policy has been "crucial in creating coherence" in US policy on civil nuclear issues, enhancing the competitiveness of the country's civil nuclear industry while furthering nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation objectives. "It is essential to ensure interagency coordination on cross-cutting issues between the Departments of Commerce, State, Energy, and Treasury, the US Trade Representative and the Export-Import Bank," they said.

Furthermore, these functions must reside in an "independent position" with "advocacy authority for civil nuclear energy" to avoid "the inherent tension that would exist if these functions were bundled with responsibility for non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, as proposed by some."

The organizations pointed to achievements in which the director of nuclear energy had played a vital role, including the entry into force of a global nuclear liability regime, the extension of the USA's civil nuclear trade agreements with China and South Korea and breakthroughs in US-India nuclear cooperation.

"Given the enormity of the continuing international trade, environmental and national security challenges inherent in the global nuclear energy arena as evidenced by the Nuclear Security Summit and 2015 Paris Climate Conference and the consequences for jobs, economic competitiveness, energy and national security, and the environment, it is our hope that you will work to ensure that the Director of Nuclear Energy Policy position is sustained," the organizations concluded.

The National Security Council is the US president's principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with senior national security advisors and cabinet officials. According to the NEI, criticism has been levelled against the Obama administration for "micromanaging" policy through an expanded National Security Council staff, although it said industry leaders have observed such criticisms do not apply to the director of nuclear energy policy. "The nuclear industry has long advocated for an independent office in the White House to ensure interagency coordination, not only on nuclear trade, but also on international climate change negotiations and national security," it said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News