Controlling Exports of Dual-Use Nuclear-Related Equipment

NSIAD-83-28: Published: Sep 29, 1983. Publicly Released: Oct 13, 1983.

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GAO examined export controls on items which, in addition to civil nuclear or non-nuclear uses, have potential applications to the design, testing, or use of nuclear weapons. GAO focused on: (1) the extent of exports, as well as the foreign availability of similar equipment; (2) the export licensing review process for dual-use items; and (3) requirements for end-use assurances for dual-use items and the ability of the United States to verify that such assurances are being maintained.

Dual-use items constitute a growing challenge to the export control process. Computer-related items pose a particular problem in that many new types of equipment have been developed that could be modified for nuclear weapons related use. Export controls on dual-use items are an important element of U.S. nuclear nonproliferation strategy. One problem with the use of export controls is that many other nations export dual-use, nuclear-related items, some to countries that U.S. officials view as posing proliferation concerns. The effectiveness of U.S. export controls depends upon cooperation from nations that export such items. U.S. Government initiatives are underway to attempt to obtain such cooperation. When foreign availability of an item cannot be limited, the United States will consider issuing an export license if the importing country provides written assurance that the item will not be misused. Such end-use assurances serve to communicate U.S. nonproliferation concerns, reinforce the conditions of the sale, and provide a vehicle for future discussions with the importing country about continued end use of the items. GAO found that the Department of Commerce is meeting the statutory requirements for issuing validated export licenses in about 89 percent of the cases reviewed. In calendar year 1982, Commerce referred about 2,100 license applications to the Department of Energy because of proliferation concerns; Energy recommended that 96 of these applications be denied.

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