Nonproliferation, Congress, and Nuclear Trade: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Part of the Policy Perspectives Series

In this policy perspective, Jodi Lieberman, writes that the Fukushima nuclear accident undoubtedly has dampened the appetite of a few countries for nuclear power, but there are still many more that still seek to build nuclear power plants. Competition for this new business, given the relatively moribund growth of the last few decades, is fierce. Traditional suppliers (France, Russia, and the United States), as well as new suppliers (China and South Korea), are jockeying for a place at the starting line. The U.S. nuclear industry contends that its competitors are enjoying strong diplomatic support from their governmentowned sponsors, but they are also concerned that nonproliferation restrictions the U.S. Congress is currently seeking to impose would additionally hinder their competitiveness. The bill in question—H.R. 1280—has been criticized both by industry and the executive branch even though it has not yet passed the House of Representatives. Surprisingly, the debate about H.R. 1280 and its impact mirrors the debate heard during deliberations over the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978, a landmark piece of legislation with significant influence both in the United States and abroad.