Login/Logout

*
*  

ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Nuclear Cooperation Agreements

U.S., Japan Extend Nuclear Agreement

U.S., Japan Extend Nuclear Agreement


The United States and Japan automatically extended a 1988 civilian nuclear pact on July 17 as Japanese officials pledged to address concerns about Japan’s substantial plutonium stockpile. The agreement allowed either side to request a review of the deal, but neither side chose to do so. Under its terms, the pact remains in force in perpetuity but each side, if it chooses, is able to terminate the agreement by giving six months’ written notice. Japan’s civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, known as a 123 agreement setting U.S. terms for sharing nuclear energy technology, is unique and controversial due to the blanket consent that it provides Tokyo to enrich uranium and extract plutonium from U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel. Enrichment and reprocessing activities are considered sensitive because they can be used to make fuel for power reactors and produce the explosive material for nuclear weapons.

Japan had more than 47 tons of plutonium as of 2016, enough to produce around 6,000 nuclear warheads. Ten tons of this material are stored in Japan while the remainder is held in France and the United Kingdom. Critics fear that these materials could be used to build nuclear weapons, thereby granting Japan a latent nuclear weapons capability. The Nikkei Asian Review reported that prior to the pact’s extension, the United States demanded Japan make efforts to reduce the stockpile. On July 31, Japan’s nuclear energy commission adopted a guideline to cap plutonium production and eventually reduce the stockpile, but it provided no timeline or specifics on a plan to do so.—MONICA MONTGOMERY

Posted: September 1, 2018

U.S.-Saudi Talks Begin on Nuclear Pact

Will the administration prioritize jobs or measures to prevent nuclear proliferation?


April 2018
By Kingston Reif

As the Trump administration begins negotiating a nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia, a growing number of lawmakers are expressing concerns that the administration is not seeking sufficiently strong nonproliferation safeguards.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry led an interagency delegation to London in late February to discuss a pact, known as a 123 agreement, with a Saudi delegation led by Saudi Arabian Minister of Energy and Industry Khalid Bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry reviews a carbon management accord with Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih during a December 4, 2017 visit to Riyadh.  (Photo: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)A 123 agreement, named after the section of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act that requires it, sets the terms for sharing U.S. peaceful nuclear energy technology, equipment, and materials with other countries.

The Trump administration has not commented on the status of the talks, and no agreement was announced during the visit to Washington last month by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia says that it is seeking nuclear power for peaceful purposes to diversify its energy sources. Yet, Prince Mohammed raised concerns about the kingdom’s intentions by stating in a March 15 interview with CBS News that Saudi Arabia will quickly follow suit if Iran acquires nuclear weapons.

Saudi Arabia has ambitious plans for nuclear power, but currently has no nuclear power plants. The kingdom plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion, according to the World Nuclear Association. It has solicited bids for the first two reactors and hopes to sign contracts by the end of this year.

A key issue in the negotiations is whether the United States will insist that Saudi Arabia agree to forgo uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing as part of a 123 agreement. (See ACT, January/February 2018.) These activities are considered sensitive because they
can be used to make fuel for nuclear power reactors and produce nuclear explosive material.

In testimony at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on March 22, Perry refused to say whether the United States was pushing such a prohibition. But he warned that if Washington does not sign an agreement with Riyadh, then Russia and China would be chosen instead and would demand less stringent nonproliferation and security standards than the United States.

To date, Saudi Arabia has resisted a ban and suggested that it seeks to make its own fuel. Al-Falih told Reuters in a March 22 interview that “it’s not natural for us to bring enriched uranium from a foreign country to fuel our reactors.” Saudi Arabian officials say the country has natural uranium deposits to mine while critics say it is more practical and economic to import uranium enriched for civil power reactors.

Opposition to an agreement that does not block Saudi fuel-making appears to be mounting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told U.S. President Donald Trump in a March 5 meeting at the White House that the United States should insist on a Saudi commitment not to enrich and reprocess.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Perry at the March 22 hearing that he “and many others" would oppose a nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia that does not include a fuel-making ban. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) expressed a similar view at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on March 21 on the implications of nuclear cooperation with Riyadh.

“The idea of Saudi Arabia having a nuclear program with the ability to enrich is a major national security concern,” she said. “Unfortunately from the little we do know from the administration, it is looking at this deal in terms of economics and in terms of commerce, and national security implications only register as a minor issue if at all.”

Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) introduced legislation March 21 that would strengthen congressional oversight by requiring that lawmakers vote to approve any agreement that does not include a legally binding prohibition on enrichment and reprocessing.

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.

Posted: April 1, 2018

U.S.-Saudi Nuke Pact Talks to Begin

The Trump administration is poised to begin negotiating a nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia amid concerns of some lawmakers about whether the administration will seek sufficiently strong nonproliferation safeguards.

January/February 2018
By Kingston Reif

The Trump administration is poised to begin negotiating a nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia amid concerns of some lawmakers about whether the administration will seek sufficiently strong nonproliferation safeguards.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry (L) and Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih (R) shake hands after a signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding on carbon management, on December 4, 2017 in Riyadh. (Photo: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)During a visit to Saudi Arabia in early December, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that formal talks will begin soon on a civilian nuclear pact, known as a 123 agreement. Such an agreement, named after the section of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act that requires it, sets the terms for sharing U.S. peaceful nuclear energy technology, equipment, and materials with other countries.

In a Dec. 13 briefing for Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff members, officials from the State and Energy departments said that the administration has yet to determine whether it will insist that Saudi Arabia agree to forgo uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing should talks begin, according to a Reuters report. These activities are considered sensitive because they can be used to make fuel for nuclear power reactors and produce nuclear explosive material.

Saudi Arabia has ambitious plans for nuclear power, but currently has no nuclear power plants. The kingdom plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion, according to the World Nuclear Association.

On Nov. 28, Christopher Ford, then-special assistant to the president and senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation on the National Security Council staff, told the committee in testimony that a ban on enrichment and reprocessing in an agreement with Saudi Arabia “is not a legal requirement, it is a desired outcome.” He said the preliminary talks with the Saudis on a nuclear deal had begun but that he could not provide details in public.

Ford was confirmed by the Senate in December as assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation.

Supporters of a ban on enrichment and reprocessing say that such an approach is critical to nonproliferation efforts and that the United States should demonstrate leadership in this area. They note that the Middle East is an unstable region and some current and former Saudi officials and members of the royal family have warned of matching Iran’s nuclear capability.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said at the Nov. 28 hearing that a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia should include the same nonproliferation standards as those contained in the agreement the United States negotiated with the United Arab Emirates in 2009.

In that agreement, the UAE made a legally binding commitment not to pursue an indigenous enrichment or reprocessing program. (See ACT, June 2009.) “[I]f we don't draw a line in the Middle East,” Cardin said, “it's going to be all-out proliferation.”

An aide to Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) told Arms Control Today that “if the Trump administration is negotiating a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia, Congress must be notified and involved.” “We should not compromise on important nonproliferation controls before even being asked to do so in an attempt to conclude an agreement that could enable commercial cooperation,” the aide added.

Opponents of a ban on enrichment and reprocessing argue that such a policy would likely be unacceptable to Riyadh, stymie prospects for U.S. companies to sell nuclear goods, and drive potential buyers to nuclear supplier countries such as France and Russia, which have less rigorous nonproliferation requirements than the United States.

President Donald Trump has pledged to revitalize the U.S. nuclear industry by allowing it to better compete with other supplier countries. The administration is currently conducting a review of U.S. policy toward civil nuclear power.

After the Indian nuclear test explosion in 1974, Congress amended the Atomic Energy Act in 1978 to mandate that nuclear cooperation agreements include tougher bulwarks to prevent U.S. nuclear assistance from being diverted to military uses. The amendment put in place nine provisions, including the requirement that recipients of U.S. civil nuclear cooperation have in place full-scope international safeguards and may not conduct activities such as uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing unless Washington first consents. The Atomic Energy Act has not been updated since 1978.

In a May 2008 memorandum of understanding with the United States on nuclear energy cooperation, Saudi Arabia committed “to rely on international markets for nuclear fuel and to not pursue sensitive nuclear technologies.” The Obama administration beginning in 2012 engaged in periodic talks with Riyadh on a 123 agreement, but was unable to strike a deal, in part due to Saudi Arabia’s unwillingness to stick to that 2008 pledge.

Saudi Arabia ratified the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1988 and concluded a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2009. But Riyadh has neither signed nor ratified an additional protocol, which provides the IAEA with expanded rights of access to nuclear information and locations.

The United States has not in recent years negotiated a 123 agreement with a state that had not signed an additional protocol.

Posted: January 10, 2018

Mapping Nuclear Security and Nonproliferation Efforts

Sections:

Description: 

This new resource aims to inform policymakers, scholars, and the general public on the role that overlapping multilateral initiatives play in nonproliferation efforts.

Body: 


New Online Resource Maps Efforts to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and Curb the Spread of Nuclear Weapons

For Immediate Release: December 6, 2016

Media Contacts: Tony Fleming, director of communications, 202-463-8270 ext. 110

(Washington, DC)—The Arms Control Association today launched a new online resource in mapping and tracking the objectives and key activities of five major nuclear nonproliferation regimes.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Initiatives Mapping Project aims to inform and update nuclear policy experts, scholars, students, and the general public, on the role that overlapping multilateral initiatives play in bolstering the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by securing weapons-usable materials, regulating the spread of dual-use nuclear ballistic missile technologies, and blocking the illicit transfer of weapons-related items.

The Arms Control Association is launching a New Online Resource Maps Efforts to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and Curb the Spread of Nuclear WeaponsProject information and resources are available online at NuclearNonProMap.org
 
The five initiatives examined in this project include

  • the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism,
  • the Missile Technology Control Regime,
  • the Nuclear Suppliers Group,
  • the Proliferation Security Initiative, and
  • the G7 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

"Each of these initiatives plays a critical role in reinforcing governments' efforts under the NPT, which entered into force in 1970, to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism, prevent the rise of new nuclear-armed actors, and strengthening the global nuclear security architecture," noted Kelsey Davenport, director of non-proliferation policy, who developed the site. 

In addition to displaying the geographic scope and providing a brief background of each initiative, this project provides general recommendations that could improve the effectiveness of each in the years ahead. These recommendations are based on open source information about the work of each initiative.

The project also presents options for collaboration amongst these voluntary groups to amplify impacts and results. These recommendations are meant to spur creative thinking about how these voluntary initiatives can adapt and evolve to better address future threats and challenges.
 
By consolidating references and recommendations, the project serves as a resource to better understand the role that voluntary intergovernmental initiatives play in bolstering nonproliferation and nuclear security efforts. The project was made possible by the generous support of the MacArthur Foundation.

The site will be updated periodically to reflect the changing membership and priorities of each initiative, developments related to the challenges they address, as well as additional recommendations for strengthening multilateral efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and combat nuclear terrorism.

###

The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Author:

Posted: December 2, 2016

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Initiatives Mapping Project

Visit the full Project site at NuclearNonProMap.org

Table of Contents

Posted: November 21, 2016

Progress on Nuclear Disarmament, Nonproliferation Inadequate to Meet Threats, New Study Finds

Sections:

Description: 

A new study suggests that President Obama, failed to make progress in key nuclear disarmament areas during his second term.

Body: 

For Immediate Release: July 15, 2016

Media Contacts: Tony Fleming, communications director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 110; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—President Barack Obama failed to make progress in key nuclear disarmament areas over the course of his second term, but did achieve important steps to improve nuclear materials security and strengthen nonproliferation norms, namely the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, according to a new study released by the Arms Control Association, which evaluates the recent records of all the world’s nuclear-armed states.

The report, "Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, 2013-2016," is the third in a series that measures the performance of 11 key states in 10 universally-recognized nonproliferation, disarmament, and nuclear security categories over the past three years. The study evaluated the records of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea—each of which possess nuclear weapons—as well as Iran and Syria, which are states of proliferation concern.

“The United States is investing enormous resources to maintain and upgrade nuclear weapons delivery systems and warheads and is keeping its deployed nuclear weapons on ‘launch-under-attack’ readiness posture. The lack of U.S. leadership in these areas contributes to the moribund pace of disarmament,” said Elizabeth Philipp, the Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the Arms Control Association, and a co-author of the report.

“Obama should use his remaining months in office to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategies and mitigate the risks of inadvertent use. Obama could consider declaring that Washington will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict,” said Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association and co-author of the report.

“U.S. leadership could spur China and Russia to take positive actions and improve the prospects for further disarmament. Russia’s decision to develop a new missile in violation of its treaty commitments and Moscow’s rebuff of attempts by the United States to negotiate further nuclear reductions is very troublesome, as is the expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal and Beijing’s steps toward increasing the alert levels of its forces,” Philipp added.

“Several states did take significant steps over the past three years to strengthen nuclear security, including action by the United States and Pakistan to ratify key nuclear security treaties,” said Davenport.

“The July 2015 nuclear deal struck between six global powers and Iran was also a significant nonproliferation breakthrough that has significantly reduced Tehran’s nuclear capacity and subjected its activities to more intrusive international monitoring and verification. While the international community must remain vigilant in ensuring that the deal is fully implemented, blocking Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons negates a serious nonproliferation concern and demonstrates the consequences of flouting the international norms and obligations,” Davenport said.

“For the third time, the United Kingdom received the highest grade of all the states assessed, while North Korea remained at the bottom of the list with the lowest overall grades. North Korea’s recent nuclear test and its ballistic missile development require the next U.S. administration to pursue more robust engagement with Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear activities,” Philipp said.

“Our review of the record indicates that further action must be taken by all 11 states if they are to live up to their international disarmament and nonproliferation responsibilities. By tracking the progress, or lack thereof, of these states over time, we hope this report will serve as a tool to encourage policymakers to increase efforts to reduce the risk posed by nuclear weapons,” Davenport said.

A country-by-country summary can be viewed here.
The full report card can be downloaded here

###

The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Posted: July 15, 2016

Experts Call on Nuclear Suppliers Group Not to Bend the Rules

Sections:

Description: 

In a letter to the 48-member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a group of 18 leading nuclear nonproliferation experts expressed...

Body: 

For Immediate Release: June 20, 2016

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—In a letter to the 48-member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a group of 18 leading nuclear nonproliferation experts expressed "deep concern and opposition to pending proposals that could grant India and Pakistan membership in the NSG on the basis of an exceptional political preference—rather than on the basis of a common, strong, and meaningful set of nonproliferation and disarmament benchmarks for NSG membership."

The Nuclear Suppliers Group is are expected to discuss the Indian and Pakistani bids for membership at its plenary meeting in Seoul during the week of June 20.

The experts warn: "It is our assessment that any further country-specific exemptions from NSG guidelines for trade and/or membership without compensating steps to strengthen nonproliferation and disarmament would increase nuclear dangers in South Asia, and weaken the NSG and the broader nuclear nonproliferation regime."

"New membership bids,” the experts write, "should be considered on the basis of whether states meet an agreed set of strong and meaningful nonproliferation and disarmament benchmarks.”

Signatories of the letter sent to the NSG participating governments include two former special representatives to the President of the United States on nonproliferation and the former U.S. negotiator for civil nuclear cooperation agreements.

"Neither India nor Pakistan meets the NSG’s membership criteria,” the letter continues, "nor does either country meet the same standards of behavior as current NSG members, nor is it clear that either state shares the NSG’s basic nonproliferation motivations, including the NSG’s efforts to stem the spread of sensitive nuclear fuel cycle technologies that could be used for nuclear weapons purposes."

Under the guidelines of the NSG, membership requires that a state is a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, among other considerations. In 2008, the United States pushed through an India-specific exemption from the NSG’s requirement that a state have full-scope international safeguards in order to be eligible for civilian nuclear trade.

“Unfortunately,” said Daryl G. Kimball of the Arms Control Association, "the United States has in the past month rejected consideration of proposals from some NSG participating governments for a criteria-based approach to membership. The Obama administration should adjust its irresponsible approach."

For the full list of endorsers and the text of the letter, see below.


Don’t Bend NSG Rules Without Steps to Strengthen Nonproliferation

June 8, 2016

Ambassador Rafael Mariano Grossi
Chair of the Nuclear Suppliers Group

Dear Ambassador:

We are writing to express our deep concern and opposition to pending proposals that could grant India and Pakistan membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on the basis of an exceptional political preference — rather than on the basis of a common, strong, and meaningful set of nonproliferation and disarmament benchmarks for NSG membership.

It is our assessment that any further country-specific exemptions from NSG guidelines for trade and/or membership without compensating steps to strengthen nonproliferation and disarmament would increase nuclear dangers in South Asia, and weaken the NSG and the broader nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Neither India nor Pakistan meets the NSG’s membership criteria, nor does either country meet the same standards of behavior as current NSG members, nor is it clear that either state shares the NSG’s basic nonproliferation motivations, including the NSG’s efforts to stem the spread of sensitive nuclear fuel cycle technologies that could be used for nuclear weapons purposes.

Since the NSG granted an India-specific exemption for India from its longstanding full-scope safeguards standard for nuclear trade in September 2008, the Indian government has not met the nonproliferation commitments it pledged it would meet in return for the exemption: its civil-military nuclear separation plan is not credible; its IAEA Additional Protocol arrangement is far weaker than those of the nuclear-armed states; and the administrative arrangements negotiated by the United States and other nuclear suppliers for tracking India’s nuclear material are insufficient.

India and Pakistan have refused to accept critical disarmament responsibilities and practices expected of all other nuclear-armed states, including a legally-binding commitment not to conduct nuclear tests (such as signing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty), halting fissile material production for weapons, and reducing nuclear and missile arsenals. Instead they are increasing their nuclear arsenals.

Thus, there is no basis to accept the argument offered by U.S. officials that Indian membership in the NSG would give India more of a stake in the nonproliferation regime.

Pakistan, which has a history of transferring sensitive nuclear fuel cycle technology and is expanding its own nuclear weaapons capabilities, has an even weaker case for NSG membership than India.

In our view, the best way to bolster the global nonproliferation and disarmament effort is to set strong standards for new membership that reaffirm the basic objectives and purposes behind the NSG and strengthen its role as a multilateral institution.

Sincerely,

Susan F. Burk
Former Special Representative of the President of the United States for Nuclear Nonproliferation (2009-2012)

Joseph Cirincione,
President, Ploughshares Fund

John D. Holum,
former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

Angela Kane,
Senior Fellow, Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation,
former High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, United Nations

Daryl G. Kimball,
Executive Director, Arms Control Association

Michael Krepon,
Co-Founder, Stimson Center

Edward P. Levine
Chairman of the Board, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation*

Jeffrey Lewis,
Middlebury Institute of International Studies*

Fred McGoldrick,
Consultant, and former Director of Nonproliferation and Export Policy,
U.S. Department of State

Robert K. Musil,
Chairman of the Board, Council for a Livable World*

Dr. Willam C. Potter,
Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies,
Middlebury Institute of International Studies*

Randy Rydell,
former Senior Political Affairs Officer in the Office of the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

Henry Sokolski,
Executive Director of The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center,
and former Deputy for Nonproliferation Policy, Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense

Sharon Squassoni,
Director of the Proliferation Prevention Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies*

Frank N. von Hippel,
former Assistant Director for National Security, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Leonard Weiss,
Stanford University, and
former Staff Director, U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and chief architect of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978

Ambassador Norman A. Wulf,
Special Representative of the U.S. President for Nuclear Nonproliferation (1999-2002)

*Institution listed for identification purposes only.

###

The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Country Resources:

Posted: June 20, 2016

Third Report of the Deep Cuts Commission

June 2016

Back from the Brink: Toward Restraint and Dialogue between Russia and the West

Posted: June 20, 2016

S. Korea, U.S. Sign Civil Nuclear Pact

After years of talks, South Korea and the United States signed an agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation.

July/August 2015

By Daniel Horner

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (left) and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz sign an agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation in Washington on June 15.(U.S. Department of Energy)South Korea and the United States on June 15 signed an agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation after years of talks that had been bedeviled by the need to square U.S. nonproliferation policy with South Korean aspirations to develop its nuclear fuel cycle and be recognized as an equal nuclear partner.

One bone of contention has been the issue of whether the United States would provide so-called advance consent for South Korean sensitive nuclear activities that fall under the agreement. The pact provides such consent for relatively noncontroversial activities, but not for uranium enrichment or for pyroprocessing, a spent fuel treatment process that South Korea is pursuing and that Washington considers to be a form of reprocessing.

Through an ongoing, joint fuel-cycle study and a high-level bilateral commission that is established by the agreement and two supplementary documents, the new accord “contains pathways” toward a “possible” U.S. decision “to grant advance consent to [South Korea] to enrich or pyroprocess U.S.-obligated nuclear material,” according to the agreement’s Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS). The NPAS, which is required under U.S. law, is one of the documents that accompanied the text of the agreement in a package that President Barack Obama sent to Congress on June 16.

Under the 1978 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements must include language saying that the partner country may not undertake activities such as uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing under the agreement unless Washington first consents to those activities.

In the agreements with Japan, Euratom, and India, the United States provided consent for the life of the agreement. Under a proposed agreement that is now before Congress, China would receive similar consent. South Korea was seeking a similar arrangement.

In 2011, South Korea and the United States began a joint study on pyroprocessing, which is due to be completed in 2021. Once the study is finished, the two sides “shall consult with a view to identifying appropriate options for the management and disposition of spent fuel subject to the Agreement and for further development or demonstration of relevant technologies,” according to the new agreement. The consultations are to take place “as promptly as possible so that nuclear energy programs of either Party would not be unduly hampered” and are to be under the auspices of the high-level commission. That body is to be headed by the U.S. deputy secretary of energy and the South Korean vice minister of foreign affairs. 

The agreement lists the criteria that the study is to use in assessing pyroprocessing—technical feasibility, economic viability, and nonproliferation acceptability. The two countries also must agree that the technology “does not significantly increase the risk of proliferation and ensures timely detection and early warning of diversion.”

In addition, the two sides have to agree that pursuing pyroprocessing “avoids the buildup of stocks of group actinides in excess of an amount that is reasonably needed.” The term “actinides” refers to a series of metallic elements in the periodic table, some of which are potentially usable as nuclear explosives.

A former U.S. official who worked on nuclear cooperation agreements said the last provision does not appear in other pacts and reflects the current U.S. policy on limiting the amount of separated plutonium. U.S. officials “don’t want to see another Japan happen,” he said in a July 3 interview, referring to Japan’s accumulation of separated plutonium well in excess of the country’s ability to use the material in its nuclear reactors.

Pyroprocessing differs from conventional reprocessing because the plutonium separated from spent fuel by pyroprocessing remains mixed with other actinides. South Korean officials have argued that this difference makes pyroprocessing more proliferation resistant than traditional reprocessing.

The NPAS notes that the United States treats pyroprocessing as a proliferation-sensitive technology and says that the United States believes that the Nuclear Suppliers Group also should do that.

That document acknowledges that the determination of whether a technology significantly increases the risk of proliferation is “subjective” and says that the proposed agreement gives the secretary of energy the “latitude” to make that determination, as required by the Atomic Energy Act.

The agreement makes clear that the potentially proliferation-sensitive activities can proceed only through mutual consent, but a former congressional staffer expressed concern that U.S. officials ultimately would accede to the South Korean requests. “For years, I’ve watched Americans forget that it’s through mutual consent. Friends are often harder to say no to” than enemies, he said in a June 30 interview.

In a July 2 interview, a congressional analyst said the structure of the agreement is “intended to allow each side to spin it positively.” The United States can say it did not give advance consent to pyroprocessing, and South Korea can say that the pact does not foreclose that possibility “forever,” he said.

He noted that the agreement’s duration is 20 years, with provision for a five-year extension. That time frame would allow the Koreans to revisit the contested issues relatively soon if they are not satisfied with the pace of progress, he said. U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements generally have had terms of at least 30 years, some of which allow for an unlimited number of five-year extensions. The shorter time frame in the new agreement was at the insistence of the South Koreans, the analyst said.

The former U.S. official agreed that the new accord represents a compromise by both sides. He added that the establishment of the high-level commission indicates “how seriously [the United States is] addressing” the South Korean concerns.

The new agreement replaces one that was due to expire last year but was extended for two years. Officials from the two countries initialed the new pact in April. (See ACT, May 2015.)

The June 16 submittal to Congress starts a countdown of 90 days of so-called continuous session. The agreement can enter into force if Congress does not block it during that time. Congress also can vote to add conditions to the agreement.

Posted: July 8, 2015

Strengthening Congressional Oversight of 123 Agreements

Sections:

Description: 

The administration submitted the proposed 123 agreement with China on April 21.

Body: 

Volume 7, Issue 8, July 2, 2015

While most of the recent conversation about nuclear nonproliferation in Congress has focused on the negotiations in Vienna on a verifiable, long-term comprehensive nuclear deal to block Iran's pathways to nuclear weapons, lawmakers are also considering another lower-profile, but nonetheless consequential, civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with China.

This "123 agreement," named after Section 123 of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act, sets the terms for sharing U.S. peaceful nuclear energy technology, equipment, and materials with China. 123 agreements ensure that U.S. civil nuclear cooperation with other countries conforms to U.S. export control laws, meets Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing requirements, meets the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and is used exclusively for peaceful purposes and not the development of nuclear weapons.

The administration submitted the proposed 123 agreement with China on April 21. U.S. law provides Congress the opportunity to review a nuclear cooperation agreement for 90 days of continuous session. If Congress does not pass a resolution disapproving the agreement before the end of this period, the agreement may enter into force.

While the administration argues the China agreement will advance the nonproliferation and other foreign policy interests of the United States, Congress should closely scrutinize the deal to ensure that it contains appropriate nonproliferation safeguards. 

Most importantly, as Congress reviews the agreement and prepares to consider a new agreement with South Korea--and potentially other agreements in the near future--Congress should consider strengthening the nonproliferation standards and procedures for congressional review of 123 agreements mandated by the 1954 Atomic Energy Act, which have not been revisited since 1978.

123 Agreements and U.S. Nonproliferation Policy

Since the beginning of the nuclear age, efforts to exploit nuclear technology for energy and for profit have complicated the task of reducing the nuclear weapons threat.

The United States has appropriately sought to deny the transfer of sensitive nuclear technologies--particularly enrichment and reprocessing technologies--to states that do not already possess the technology through the terms of our nuclear cooperation agreements.

After the Indian test explosion in 1974, Congress amended the Atomic Energy Act in 1978 to mandate tougher bulwarks against the diversion of U.S. nuclear assistance for military uses. The amendment put in place nine new provisions, including the requirement that recipients of U.S. civil nuclear cooperation have in place a full scope of safeguards. The Atomic Energy Act has not been updated since.

Some members of Congress have argued that the Obama administration's policy on nuclear cooperation agreements is "inconsistent" because it does not require that all states foreswear enrichment and reprocessing, which some have dubbed the "Gold Standard." 

The so-called "Gold Standard" was enshrined in the recent 123 agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan, and is a useful addition to the global nonproliferation regime, complementing other U.S. efforts to prevent the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technology. 

The United States should seek the inclusion of a legally-binding no-enrichment and reprocessing commitment in new agreements and agreements up for renewal with countries that do not already have these capabilities. However, securing such a commitment will not be possible in all cases, in part because sovereign states are extremely reluctant to forego future technology and commercial options. 

Yet, Congress could consider adjusting the review procedures for 123 agreements that do not include commitments to forego enrichment and reprocessing (or other key standard such as adherence to the tougher International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards under the terms of the additional protocol) so they are subject to an affirmative vote of approval.

The China Agreement

The current 30-year U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement with China entered into force in 1985, but implementation did not begin until 1998 because of certification requirements established by Congress. The new agreement would be another 30-year deal and replace the existing agreement that is set to expire at the end of this year. 

Overall, China's nonproliferation record has improved significantly since the 1980s and 1990s. For example, China has joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group. It has put its civilian reactors under safeguards and increased cooperation with the United States on nuclear material security. In addition, Beijing has curtailed the transfer of technologies and information that have assisted Pakistan's nuclear weapons program and Iran's nuclear program. 

Nonetheless, concerns remain. 

The Nonproliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS) prepared by the U.S. State Department about the 123 agreement, raises concerns about the potential Chinese misuse of civil nuclear technology for military purposes, proliferation of dual-use materials and technologies involving Chinese entities, and China's provision to Pakistan of additional nuclear reactors, which is inconsistent with the Chinese commitments made when it joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004.

In addition, some have objected to a provision in the agreement granting each party "advance consent" to reprocess U.S.-obligated nuclear material. This kind of permission, which is not bestowed in the current agreement, has been included in 123 agreements with India and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). China is planning to build commercial reprocessing facilities to reprocess much of its spent fuel domestically.

However, President Barack Obama noted in a March 26, 2012 speech in South Korea that the world "simply can't go on accumulating huge amounts of the very material, like separated plutonium, that we're trying to keep away from terrorists." It's not clear how providing China with advance consent to reprocessing will reduce global stocks of separated plutonium.

The administration argues the economic, diplomatic, and environmental benefits of the agreement merit continuing nuclear cooperation with China despite ongoing nonproliferation concerns. They point to enhanced features in the new agreement that go beyond the current deal, especially in the area of preventing the diversion of civil nuclear technology and material for military use. They note that any reprocessing of U.S. obligated material would require a future agreement on "arrangements and procedures" and could take place only at facilities that are under or eligible for IAEA safeguards. Rejecting the deal, they say, will leave the United States in a weaker position to influence China's nonproliferation behavior

If Congress is concerned about the nonproliferation risks of nuclear cooperation with China, there are steps it can take to ensure effective oversight of cooperation. 

For example, lawmakers could require regular reports from the administration about China's adherence to the deal and whether it is making progress on strengthening export controls and cracking down on entities engaged in proliferating dual-use goods and technologies.

In addition, the agreement notes that the parties "shall take account into account the need to avoid contributing to the risks of nuclear proliferation...and the importance of balancing supply and demand, including demand for reasonable working stocks for civil nuclear operations." If Congress is concerned about the possibility of Chinese reprocessing, it could ask for a report on how these criteria are being met, if China carries out reprocessing that falls under the agreement.

Updating the Atomic Energy Act

If Congress wants a greater degree of consistency and higher nonproliferation standards in 123 agreements, it can legislate higher standards that should be sought and if those standards are not all achieved, Congress could revise the process by which such agreements should be considered for approval or disapproval by the Congress. 

Such an effort would reinforce the revised voluntary guidelines approved in 2011 by the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group not to transfer enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology exports to states that have not signed or are not in compliance with the nuclear NPT, do not allow safeguards, and do not allow more extensive monitoring under the terms of an additional protocol, among other criteria.
 
Two bipartisan bills introduced in the House in 2011 and 2013 (H.R. 1280 and H.R. 3766) offer a useful framework to consider and build on. 

The bills would not have required that states adopt the gold standard. Instead, the bills would add several new requirements to the nine key requirements already in Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act that, if met, would "fast track" that country's nuclear cooperation agreement for approval.

Agreements with states that cannot meet the higher set of standards would be subject to a more rigorous process requiring affirmative congressional approval. 

Among the most important new requirements for "fast track" approval that were in the House bills included

  • the application of the IAEA 1997 Model Additional Protocol (dozens of states have not yet approved an additional protocol, including Algeria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia); and
  • a pledge from countries that do not already possess enrichment and reprocessing capabilities not to acquire these capabilities and/or facilities to conduct them 

Other conditions that might be considered in updating the Atomic Energy Act include

  • clarifying that the recipient state must allow for the application of its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement under the terms of the most up-to-date IAEA revisions, which today are known as code 3.1;
  • requiring termination of U.S. nuclear cooperation in the event the recipient state conducts a nuclear test explosion, is found to be in violation of its IAEA safeguards obligations, or acquires enrichment or reprocessing equipment from sources other than the United States;
  • requiring affirmative congressional approval for agreements that provide advance consent to enrich and/or reprocess (except in states that already have prior approval to do so);
  • requiring affirmative congressional approval for agreements lasting more than 30 years; and
  • revising Section 131 of the Atomic Energy Act to lengthen the current 15-day congressional review period for subsequent arrangements to 123 agreements involving the reprocessing of U.S.-origin nuclear material or nuclear material produced with U.S. supplied technology (subsequent arrangements are required for forms of nuclear cooperation requiring additional Congressional approval, such as recipient states' enrichment or reprocessing of nuclear material transferred pursuant to the agreement).

In light of (1) the growing interest in nuclear power in geopolitically sensitive regions of the globe; (2) the inclusion of the "Gold Standard" in the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan agreements; and (3) new Nuclear Supplier Group rules adopted in 2011, it is prudent to examine how the Atomic Energy Act might be updated to better address the proliferation risks of today-and tomorrow.—KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

Country Resources:

Posted: July 2, 2015

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Nuclear Cooperation Agreements