Two weeks ago in New York, in the midst of the energy and excitement of the 74th UN General Assembly, the United States and Romania signed a Nuclear Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding (NCMOU) on strategic civil nuclear engagement. This Memorandum signals our joint commitment to ensuring that the U.S.-Romania Strategic Partnership, which has endured for decades, grows even stronger in the years to come. It does so by demonstrating our intention to collaborate on Romania’s civil nuclear program, and to pursuing peaceful, productive uses of nuclear energy.
So what exactly are NCMOUs? In short, they are diplomatic instruments that establish the basis for broader, strategic relationships between the United States and our partners. By declaring our intent to cooperate on the responsible use of nuclear energy and technology, the United States and Romania reinforce our already strong bilateral ties. Now, it should be noted that NCMOUs do not replace “123 Agreements.” Named for their corresponding section of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act, 123 Agreements are robust, legally binding instruments that underpin the United States’ civil nuclear commerce. However, an NCMOU is an invaluable diplomatic tool to make continued collaboration possible, and to provide a framework for engagement among experts from government, industry, national laboratories and academic institutions. When it comes to civil nuclear cooperation, an NCMOU opens the door to a world of possibilities.
By signing this NCMOU with Romania, the United States is stepping through that door with a close partner and steadfast ally. Already, we work together across a number of key issue areas, from facilitating foreign direct investment, underscored by the bilateral investment treaty we share, to our mutual concerns over the security threats posed by Chinese 5G telecommunications infrastructure. Romania is also an invaluable NATO ally and host to a rotational presence of U.S. troops on Romanian soil. When it came time to send troops to NATO missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, and to the Defeat-ISIS Coalition, Romania stepped up to the plate. Some of these troops made the ultimate sacrifice, for which we are saddened and forever grateful. Today, the U.S. is fully on board with Romania’s military modernization efforts, which include recent purchases of U.S. Patriot missiles and a U.S. High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, together worth approximately $6 billion. In signing the NCMOU, the United States and Romania demonstrate a shared commitment to furthering our strategic relationship through civil nuclear cooperation, and our openness to collaborating in other areas of national importance, including national security and energy security issues.
Our long history of friendship is built on a strong foundation of peaceful nuclear collaboration. The United States and Romania have been working together in the field of nuclear energy since 1966, when we first signed a Project and Supply Agreement via the IAEA. Today, we also cooperate via the European Atomic Energy Community and the Nuclear Energy Agency. In signing the NCMOU, we continue this long tradition. We declare our intent to work together to advance energy security and safe civil nuclear technology, infrastructure, and expertise in Romania, to reinforce our strategic and economic partnerships, and our openness to the potential of expanding our collaboration in the future. The NCMOU is intended to play a vital role in promoting the security of Romania’s energy supply and in meeting the clean energy needs of its people, and it will further cement Romania’s strategic, political, and commercial partnerships with the United States and its NATO Allies.
When the UN General Assembly drew to a close last week, leaders from 193 Member States returned home to their respective countries, but our work continues. The United States looks forward to continuing down the path towards civil nuclear cooperation with Romania. With such a long history of friendship, it is in our mutual interest to ensure that our partnership only grows stronger in the future.
About the Author: Nora Updegrove is a Foreign Affairs Officer and Presidential Management Fellow in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation.