House Panel Revises U.S. Nuclear Export Law
The House Foreign Affairs Committee last month approved a bill that would change the law governing
At its April 14 session, the panel voted 34-0 to send the bill, H.R. 1280, to the House floor. As Arms Control Today went to press, no schedule had been set for a floor vote.
A Senate aide said in an April 26 interview that he “certainly” expected the Senate to produce a companion bill. “Multiple drafts” are circulating, but the Senate probably will not start moving legislation until the House has acted, he said.
The House bill had been introduced April 1 by committee chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) with several other senior members of the panel as co-sponsors. One of those was Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the ranking member, who also introduced his own bill, H.R. 1320, which overlapped with Ros-Lehtinen’s in many respects but contained some key differences. The legislation approved by the committee was “an amendment in the nature of a substitute,” which adapted the original Ros-Lehtinen bill to include some key elements of Berman’s.
Ros-Lehtinen’s and Berman’s original bills included a provision tying eligibility for
The bill also would change the circumstances under which cooperation agreements could enter into force without a congressional vote. Under current law, most nuclear cooperation agreements can enter into force after 90 days of so-called continuous session unless Congress enacts legislation blocking the pact. Agreements that meet the nine nonproliferation criteria can come into force this way. Those that do not meet all those conditions require a vote of approval in both chambers of Congress. The only cooperation agreement to come into force by the second route was the one with
The House legislation retains that basic structure. However, by adding the restriction on enrichment and reprocessing, along with a number of other new conditions, it requires countries to do more to be eligible for “fast-track” approval, as Berman called it.
The two-track approach was in Berman’s bill; Ros-Lehtinen’s original bill would have required an affirmative approval vote for cooperation agreements with all countries. Among the other requirements is that each cooperating country has joined an array of international agreements, “has signed, ratified, and is fully implementing” an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, “has established and is fully implementing an effective export control system,” and “is closely cooperating with the United States to prevent state sponsors of terrorism from acquiring or developing nuclear, biological, chemical weapons” or “destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons, including ballistic missiles.”
In her statement at the April 14 session, Ros-Lehtinen said Congress should “act now to put these new protections in place, so that cooperation between the
In a statement issued later that day, the Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents the nuclear industry in
It warned that the bill “threatens thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars in exports by
In comments to reporters after an April 26 appearance at a
Setting a Standard
Part of the impetus for the legislation came from the
A Department of State spokesman last year referred to the UAE agreement as the “gold standard,” but the Obama administration has been divided over the question of how to apply the UAE model to other countries. (See ACT, October 2010.) One particular piece of that question is whether to apply it to countries outside the
One country affected by the debate is
With regard to another much-discussed potential 123 agreement,
Accounts of the negotiations vary on what the specific terms of the deal might be, but the general idea seems to be that Jordan would not pursue enrichment or reprocessing for some specified period of time and that the two sides would revisit the issue at the end of that period.
In an April 19 interview, a House aide who follows nonproliferation issues closely said the cooperation agreement with
One result of the House legislation may be that the administration presses harder for strong nonproliferation conditions in ongoing talks, the staffer said.
In an April 22 interview, a nuclear industry source said a Jordanian decision to accept
For many countries, the source said, signing a cooperation agreement with the
The legislation requires a “report on comparability of nonproliferation conditions by foreign nuclear suppliers,” but does not specify action that Congress should take in response to the report. The “implied purpose” of the report is to exert some pressure on non-U.S. suppliers to upgrade their nonproliferation requirements to be more consistent with the ones the bill would establish, the Democratic staffer said.
In his statement at the April 14 committee session, Berman urged the Obama administration “to use all its influence to convince the other nuclear supplier states to adopt the same nonproliferation and security conditions in their agreements that we observe in ours, especially when those same suppliers are seeking nuclear business in the
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