Focus on China for new U.S. nuclear export controls

August 14, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has expanded the scope of its nuclear-related export controls on China and Macao (a special administrative region in southeastern China) by establishing additional nuclear nonproliferation controls and license requirements for items that could “contribute to nuclear activities of concern.” The BIS stated that the action, effective August 11, was taken in response to China’s military modernization and nuclear force expansion.

In a related move, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has suspended a general license that had authorized exports of a number of items for nuclear-related uses to China. According to an NRC statement dated Aug. 8 and labeled “effective immediately,” “The Executive Branch of the United States Government has determined that suspending the general license authority under 10 CFR Part 110 for exports of special nuclear material, source material, and deuterium for nuclear end use to the People’s Republic of China is necessary to improve oversight and control of these exports.”

Law firm’s take: The BIS action specifically imposed new license requirements—as described by international trade law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg in its Aug. 14 Trade Report—for “NP2 [nuclear nonproliferation column 2] controlled items destined for China or Macau [sic]. License applications for items controlled for NP2 reasons to China and Macau [sic] will be reviewed in accordance with the license review policies set forth in Section 742.3(b)(3) and (4) of the EAR [Export Administration regulations].”

The firm noted that, per the BIS, “these controls are being put in place to further allow the U.S. government to monitor the export of these items to assure that they are only being used in peaceful activities such as commercial nuclear power generation, medical developments, production of or use in medicine, and nonmilitary related industries.”

NRC action: According to the NRC statement, the export license suspension is considered a necessary step by the Executive Branch “to further the national security interests of the United States and to enhance the common defense and security, and is consistent with the Atomic Energy Act [AEA] of 1954, as amended.”

The sanction covers, “special nuclear material, source material, and deuterium for nuclear end use to the People’s Republic of China,” and, according to the statement, is in effect until further notice. “Any person wishing to export special nuclear material, source material, or deuterium for nuclear end use . . . must apply for a specific license in accordance with 10 CFR 110.31,” the statement concluded.

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