Evaluation of Selected Features of U.S. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Law and Policy

EMD-81-9: Published: Nov 18, 1980. Publicly Released: Nov 18, 1980.

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Recent changes in U.S. nuclear nonproliferation law and policy focus heavily on curbing the capability of nations to produce nuclear weapons. The 1978 Nuclear Nonproliferation Act attempts to provide a balance of controls and incentives directed toward discouraging other nations from developing fuel-cycle capabilities that would provide independent access to plutonium and highly enriched uranium, the two indispensable ingredients of nuclear weapons.

With the emergence of foreign enrichment capabilities, U.S. reliance on its uranium enrichment capability as a nonproliferation tool has become an outdated idea. The United States is committed to being a reliable supplier of enrichment services to nations adhering to effective nonproliferation policies. Foreign concerns over U.S. reliability as a nuclear trading partner center around the delays and uncertainties associated with the nuclear export control system. There is substantial opposition to requirements of the nonproliferation law which would extend U.S. rights to approve foreign processing of U.S.-supplied nuclear fuel. U.S. reprocessing approval rights have been a factor in influencing countries not to purchase U.S. supplies and services. It is not apparent that the construction of a new enrichment plant is justified at this time. The Department of Energy (DOE) has not fully and objectively considered options that would allow it to meet demand and delay the current construction program until more is known about advanced enrichment technologies under development.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should look closely at DOE requests for the construction funding of new enrichment plants. If convincing documentation that the additional capacity is needed is not presented, Congress should consider not appropriating additional funds.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should seek, in accordance with the executive branch consultative procedures established pursuant to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978, the necessary top-level policy approvals to allow the executive branch to consider and act on foreign reprocessing requests without our trading partners having to demonstrate an imminent physical need (i.e., spent fuel congestion).

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should improve the predictability of the export licensing process for highly enriched uranium by: (1) telling foreign governments, after appropriate consultations which reactors merit under administration policies continued U.S. supplies pending commercial availability of more proliferation-resistant fuels and; (2) exediting the executive branch processing of export requests for Presidential review.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should announce the U.S. position on when the United States will claim reprocessing approval rights. Matters that should be clarified include but are not limited to: (1) what happens when U.S. exports are "co-mingled" with exports of other nations, (2) what happens when more than one nation claims approval rights on the same commodity, and (3) will the executive branch condition component exports on reprocessing approval rights.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should, in future budget requests for construction of uncommitted increments of enrichment capacity at Portsmouth or elsewhere, specifically demonstrate: (1) that the need for new capacity is based on realistic demand forecasts that cannot be met by the Department's recently upgraded existing facilities; or (2) that the new capacity will further U.S. non-proliferation objectives by enhancing U.S. reliability as a nuclear supplier and/or by providing a disincentive for other nations to acquire enrichment technologies; or (3) that the new capacity is economically justified and the economic justification fully and objectively considers options involving the use of advanced isotope separation technologies for the new capacity.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should take the lead in coordinating a comprehensive interagency reassessment of the controls over unclassified nuclear activities of U.S. firms and how they are administered. This assessment should focus on ways to (1) reduce opportunities for controls to be circumvented; (2) better harmonize controls DOE administers with the controls the Department of Commerce and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission administer in the nuclear field; and (3) reduce confusion over government decisions by establishing (a) more specific review and approval criteria and (b) administrative procedures which permit greater public accountability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

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