U.S. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Policy:

Impact on Exports and Nuclear Industry Could Not Be Determined

ID-80-42: Published: Sep 23, 1980. Publicly Released: Sep 23, 1980.

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U.S. companies dominated the nuclear export market through the early 1970's, gaining 86 percent of free-world nuclear power reactor exports during 1970-1973. The United States also monopolized the supply of uranium enrichment services for free-world reactors. However, many foreign reactor vendors, some aided by U.S. technology sales, have emerged to capture their domestic markets, thus shrinking the market available to U.S. companies. Several foreign vendors have also competed aggressively for export sales, reducing the U.S. share of free-world reactor exports to less than 50 percent for the years 1974-1979. In addition, European and Soviet suppliers are competing for sales of uranium enrichment services. In the highly competitive nuclear export market, technology, economics, and politics may influence a customer's choice of suppliers. Divergence in nuclear nonproliferation policies is but one of the many factors.

There is little evidence that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act actually caused lost export sales. However, nuclear industry officials and foreign customers have complained about the Act's export restrictions and the resulting export license delays. In addition, U.S. nonproliferation policies, preceding the Act, played a part in the failure of U.S. companies to win reactor orders in Brazil and Iran during 1975-1977. During that period, U.S. nonproliferation policies were evolving and included certain provisions, such as restrictions on enrichment technology exports and control over reprocessing of U.S.-origin fuel, that became law in the Act. GAO could not determine the impact of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act on the competitiveness of U.S. nuclear exports. However, other factors could affect U.S. nuclear exports. Forecasts of future world nuclear power plant capacity have indicated progressively lower growth rates since 1973. The present status of nuclear energy programs has led some to question the viability of the nuclear industry worldwide. It has been suggested that, unless substantial political and economic changes occur in the early 1980's to stimulate new orders, both major U.S. and foreign nuclear suppliers will be severely strained to maintain reactor operations.

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