The US Department of Energy has made it easier to share nuclear information with Mexico and harder to do so for Colombia and Egypt.
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In a new rule effective Feb. 9, DOE expanded the requirements for sharing nuclear energy technology with Mexico, doing away with a limit that had only allowed such general sharing on matters related to upgrades and operation of its single nuclear power plant, Laguna Verde, or research reactors. Now, the country becomes a generally-authorized destination for sharing nuclear technology without those limits, DOE said.
Under rules in Part 810 covering the exchange of certain non-public commercial nuclear energy technology, countries may be generally authorized, meaning information can be shared with those countries as well as citizens of those countries working at nuclear facilities in the US.
The DOE changes, which were announced in a secretarial determination Dec. 29, also included removing Colombia and Egypt from the list of generally authorized destinations, DOE said. These destinations, and the sharing of information with citizens of those countries in the US, will now require a specific authorization from DOE, it noted.
The determination, published in the Federal Register Jan. 31, said the change to allow a full range of exchange of information with Mexico was made after a 123 nuclear cooperation agreement with the country came into force Nov. 2. Such agreements are named for the section of the US Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act that establishes requirements for them.
In a separate Federal Register notice Jan. 31, DOE said it had removed Colombia and Egypt from the list of generally authorized countries after nuclear cooperation agreements expired between them and the US. The agreement between Colombia and the US expired in 2013, it noted. There was no explanation for the long lag in the expiration and the removal of the general authorization.
The nuclear cooperation agreement with Egypt expired at the end of 2021, DOE said.
Anyone engaged in activities cover by Part 810 under the previous general authorizations for Colombia and Egypt have until March 2 to see a specific authorization to continue those activities, lawyers Alex Polonksy and Grant Eskelsen of the Morgan Lewis law firm said in a blog post Feb. 6. If such a request is submitted, the activities can continue until DOE rules on the requests, they said.
No change on South Africa
Polonsky and Eskelsen said they had been expecting a similar change to the status of South Africa, currently a generally authorized destination. The nuclear cooperation agreement between the US and South Africa expired Dec. 4, but DOE did not include a change in status for that country in the rule change, they noted.
A Department of State spokesperson said Jan. 26 that "the United States government remains in discussion with the government of South Africa about the prospects for a new bilateral civil nuclear agreement with South Africa," without providing further details.