Acoalition of nuclear industry groups is urging the Obama administration to keepthe position of nuclear energy policy director at the National Security Councilamid reports the role may be cut. The organizations wrote a letterMay 3 to President Barack Obama's National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, toexpress "deep concern over informed reports" that the White House isconsidering eliminating the position.
Thedirector of nuclear energy policy facilitates cross-agency coordination on commercialand national security issues related to nuclear energy. That role is "crucialin creating coherence in U.S. policy on civil nuclear issues, enhancing thecompetitive position of the U.S. civil nuclear industry and furthering U.S.nuclear safety, security and nonproliferation objectives," the letter said.
In2015 alone, the director played a key role in bringing a global nuclearliability program into effect, extending China and the Republic of Korea'scivil nuclear trade agreements, and facilitating further cooperation betweenthe U.S. and India on nuclear energy that has "set the stage for apotential major order for U.S. technology," the groups said. The director'soffice also assisted in the December 2015 climate reached in Paris at the 21stConference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
"Theposition has become critical to U.S. nuclear companies that are competing withgovernment owned enterprises," WestinghouseElectric Co. LLC Vice President of Government and InternationalAffairs Jeanne Lopatto said in a post on the Nuclear Energy Institute'swebsite. "Since the position was created we have seen a more comprehensiveand unified strategy to promote commercial nuclear energy, which supports theadministration's trade, environmental, and national security objectives."
Theposition, which the U.S. Civil Nuclear Trade Advisory Committee created in2012, was held by Joyce Connery between January 2012 and July 2015. Connery wassucceeded by Michael Wautlet.
TheNEI said lawmakers have criticized the Obama administration for expanding theNational Security Council's "clout" but that industry leaders do notfeel those criticisms apply to the director of nuclear energy policy. The May 3letter was sent by NEI, the United States Nuclear Infrastructure Council, theAmerican Nuclear Society and self-described "centrist" policy thinktank Third Way.
NationalSecurity Council spokesman Myles Caggins said the council is aware of theletter but did not confirm whether the position may be phased out. "The administrationis committed to ensuring that U.S. companies remain competitive in theinternational nuclear marketplace," a senior administration official said.