January 30, 2014

Corker: Inconsistent Demands in Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreements Threaten U.S. Nonproliferation Objectives

WASHINGTON – At a hearing today examining U.S. policy governing civilian nuclear cooperation agreements with foreign governments (known as “123 agreements”), U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the Obama administration’s inconsistent demands regarding enrichment and reprocessing (ENR), also reflected in negotiations with Iran, threaten U.S. national security interests to prevent the proliferation of nuclear material.  The administration has since backed away from the “gold standard” in which countries entering into these agreements with the United States commit not to engage in enrichment or reprocessing activities.  For example, a pending accord with Taiwan includes a legally binding restriction against domestic ENR, while another agreement recently reached with Vietnam does not.

“The absence of a consistent policy weakens our nuclear nonproliferation efforts, sends a mixed message to those nations we seek to prevent from gaining or enhancing such capability, and signals to our partners that the ‘gold standard’ is no standard at all,” said Corker.  “The agreement with Iran is a de facto sign-off on enrichment, and while we are not negotiating a 123 agreement with Iran, these negotiations will have implications for our global nuclear nonproliferation regime.”

He further emphasized the importance of congressional oversight of 123 agreements, raising the prospects for an expanded role for Congress. Under current law, Congress only has the ability to object to a particular 123 agreement through a resolution of disapproval that must pass during a limited period of time after the agreement has been submitted to Congress by the president.

“While Congress provides an important check on the administration to ensure that our national security interests are placed first and are being met with each agreement, I am concerned that we will be increasingly marginalized if we do not explore changes to the current process for Congressional approval,” said Corker.  “We should examine whether it is time to call on Congress to provide a resolution of approval on all agreements prior to them becoming law, except perhaps in the case where an agreement reaches the ‘gold standard’.  I welcome our witnesses’ comments and observations on this and other proposals to update the Atomic Energy Act.”

The full text of Senator Corker’s opening remarks at the hearing is available here.

For full committee testimony and footage of the hearing, visit: https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/section-123-civilian-nuclear-cooperation-agreements.


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