When Foreign Countries Want to Buy into U.S. Nuclear Power Plants – What Then?

The United States has historically struggled to balance its commitment to economic openness and foreign investment with national security concerns. For example, U.S. national policy makers have worked to make sure sensitive military and defense technology and production remain with American companies.

After 9/11, concerns grew that foreign ownership of U.S. infrastructure could increase our vulnerability to terrorist attacks. One example is the heated debate triggered by the 2006 purchase of a company that ran U.S. ports by the United Arab Emirates-owned company Dubai Ports World. (Dubai Ports eventually sold its interests to a U.S. company.) More recently, globalization of the nuclear industry and the weak U.S. economy have attracted significant levels of foreign investment in the U.S. nuclear industry.

The Atomic Energy Act prohibits the NRC from issuing a license to any entity that the Commission believes is “owned, controlled or dominated by an alien, a foreign corporation or foreign government.” Broadly speaking, the foreign ownership prohibition protects the “common defense and security” of the United States, even though this may prevent some nations from participating in U.S. nuclear joint ventures.

However, the NRC can permit foreign investment in nuclear power reactors if certain conditions are met. What are these conditions?

The licensee must submit a plan that describes how it will mitigate foreign control issues. For example, the licensee could exclude foreign board directors from nuclear safety and security decisions or establish “Nuclear Advisory Committees” made up of U.S. citizens to oversee safety and security practices.

For any proposed foreign joint venture, the NRC staff reviews many aspects of the proposed corporate structures of the owners, including parent companies and subsidiaries, financial arrangements, operating agreements, voting requirements, and decision-making authorities. The staff can impose license conditions specific to the situation.

Foreign investment will continue to play a critical part in the U.S. nuclear industry. Through effective staff review and implementation of effective mitigation measures, the NRC can continue to protect the common defense and security regardless of ownership.

Anneliese Simmons
Nuclear Reactor Financial Analyst

Not just a place to work, but The Best Place to Work in the Federal Government

photo of NRC officials with plaqueWhen I graduated from college, I immediately began looking for a private sector job. I didn’t consider pursuing a government position even though my father and four of my uncles worked for various agencies or departments. Maybe my reluctance was because I saw my father work incredibly long hours and I thought NO WAY!

But after 10 years of long hours in a private sector job with little job security, I was back in the job market. This time, I focused on the federal government and was pleased to get hired. After eight years at that job, I was ready for another change. I was fortunate enough to be recruited by the NRC.

When I started at the NRC it had just been rated The Best Place to Work in the Federal Government for 2007. I soon found out why. The NRC offers great work life benefits with flexible work schedules, telework opportunities, an on-site health care center and even day care for those with children!

I didn’t quite understand what being No. 1 meant but here at the NRC it’s taken very seriously. NRC employees are surveyed annually about leadership management, performance, talent management and job satisfaction. If the NRC has a low score in one or more of these areas, the NRC takes measures to improve so that employees know they are being heard. The top leaders at the NRC believe the satisfaction of their employees directly supports the mission of the agency and the ability to meet the public’s expectations. So the efforts are not just for the employees, but for everyone the NRC serves.

The NRC must be doing something right. We’ve now been ranked No. 1 for the third time in a row! It’s a great feeling to say you work a the best place in the federal government and know that as an employee, you helped made it happen.

For more details: The Best Places to Work rankings

Kim English
Recruitment Program Manager