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Up & Atom

The US Department of Commerce (DOC) issued a Final Rule on April 5 to add a new Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) to the Commerce Control List (CCL) for targets used for tritium production. The new ECCN, “1A231” requires a license for shipments of the targets, components used for production of the targets, and the associated technology for all destinations except those that are members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) (except China). However, the Final Rule actually reduces the restrictions on these components and related technology from the level of previous control.

ECCN 1A231 defines the affected targets as those “made of or containing lithium enriched in the lithium-6 isotope ‘specially designed’ for the production of tritium through irradiation, including insertion in a nuclear reactor” or components “specially designed” for such targets. A Technical Note in the ECCN states that components “specially designed” for “target assemblies for the production of tritium may include lithium pellets, tritium getters, and specially-coated cladding.” The new rule also adds the related “production” and “use” technology for ECCN 1A231 to existing ECCNs 1E001 and 1E201.

DOC is controlling this commodity and associated technology for nuclear nonproliferation (NP) Column 1 and anti-terrorism (AT) Column 1 reasons. Accordingly, a license is required to all destinations other than NSG member countries, except China. License exceptions are available, consistent with NP Column 1 controlled end items and related technology and provisions. DOC will review license applications consistent with the criteria set forth in § 742.3(b) of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) (15 CFR 742.3(b)). Of note, two of the criteria include whether the recipient has given nonproliferation assurances and whether the technology will be used for research into enrichment or reprocessing facilities.

The establishment of ECCN 1A231 is the result of a six-year review of certain commodities and technologies (including for tritium targets) that were not identified in an existing ECCN, and therefore were not subject to the appropriate control. After consultations, DOC and the US Department of Energy determined that some of these technologies should have been controlled under the EAR “because the items provide at least a significant military or intelligence advantage to the United States or for foreign policy reasons.” While the commodities and technology were undergoing review, they were assigned to the temporary ECCN 0Y521 series of the CCL and controlled for purposes of regional stability. This classification required a license for all destinations except Canada.

Subsequently, the US government submitted a proposal to the NSG “seeking a longer-term, multilateral classification for the targets and related technologies.” The NSG adopted the United States’ proposal and accordingly, DOC established a new ECCN to meet its commitments to the NSG.

Morgan Lewis routinely counsels clients on the requirements of export controls to their nuclear commodities and technology.