NRC Rescinds Secrecy Surrounding HEU Fuel Exports

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says that it will no longer conceal the amounts of highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel proposed for export to foreign research reactors. The announcement marks a step back from the heightened secrecy adopted by the NRC and other government agencies post-September 11.

The revised policy had been sought by the Nuclear Control Institute, a non-proliferation advocacy organization, and the move was disclosed in an August 31 letter (pdf) to the Institute.

“After considering your recommendations and various other factors, NRC will discontinue automatically withholding material quantity information from the public versions of export license applications,” wrote NRC Chairman Dale E. Klein to NCI analyst Alan J. Kuperman.

Henceforward, “Federal Register notices for proposed HEU exports will also include quantities requested,” Chairman Klein wrote.

The Nuclear Control Institute had argued that such disclosure serves the public interest because it enables public vetting of applications for HEU exports and thereby helps to ensure that traffic in weapons-grade uranium is minimized.

NCI analyst Kuperman commended the NRC for “rethinking and reversing a secrecy policy that was a counter-productive over-reaction to the attacks of September 11.”

He said the new openness policy will “assist the Commission to fulfill its statutory responsibility to minimize commerce in bomb-grade uranium.”

“The NRC will continue to withhold information on projected or actual shipment schedules, delivery dates, … or any other related logistical information… as this information could be useful to a potential adversary,” Chairman Klein wrote.