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Senators Kaine, Markey, Rubio, & Young Introduce Legislation To Ensure Congressional Oversight Of All Nuclear Technology Transfers Overseas

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Todd Young (R-IN) to introduce legislation to ensure that Congress has the legislative authority to review all materials related to so-called “Part 810 authorizations” and is aware when the U.S. government authorizes persons or companies to transfer certain nuclear technologies and services to governments overseas.

Part 810 agreements authorize the transfer of nuclear technologies and information related to the production of “special nuclear materials” as defined in Title I of the Atomic Energy Act. Some authorizations, which are approved by the Secretary of Energy, may be non-public and can thus be withheld from Congressional oversight. These 810 authorizations are different than civil nuclear cooperation – so-called “123” – agreements, which are subject to Congressional approval. The Senators are introducing this legislation after revelations the Trump administration recently granted seven undisclosed authorizations for companies to engage in nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

In March 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman stated in an interview that his country would develop nuclear weapons “without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb”. Just a few months later, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir echoed these comments.

“Congress recently learned through press accounts that the Department of Energy had secretly approved seven transfers of nuclear know-how from American companies to Saudi Arabia,” said Kaine. “Such transfers raise the risk of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and should not be made without Congressional oversight. I am proud to join a bipartisan group of Senators to ensure that no Administration can hide such deals in the future.”

“The United States Congress must be in on the ground floor of determining when and where America engages in geopolitically sensitive nuclear cooperation,” said Markey. “The Trump administration and its industry friends do not get to decide whether Congress reviews 810 authorizations. This legislation is essential to ensuring that Congress has the legal authority to review any 810 authorizations and is fully aware of who may be engaging in sensitive nuclear cooperation with regimes like Saudi Arabia, who may take advantage of American technologies or materials to make authoritarian nuclear bombs.”

“Given Iran’s long-term ambitions for nuclear weapons-making capabilities, it’s concerning that the Saudi Government refuses to embrace the ‘Gold Standard’ created by the U.S.-U.A.E. civil nuclear agreement in which the Emirates agreed not to enrich uranium and reprocess spent nuclear fuel,” said Rubio. “Congress cannot play its oversight role and ensure U.S. civil nuclear cooperation efforts do not encourage the spread of nuclear weapons-making capabilities when the Executive Branch, regardless of whatever party controls it, withholds critical information from elected lawmakers about Energy Department authorizations to export nuclear technology, services and assistance to foreign governments.”

“The transfer of nuclear technology overseas poses a major threat to our security as a nation and demands rigorous Congressional oversight,” said Young. “This bipartisan legislation would ensure that the transfer of nuclear technology or expertise to foreign countries, like Saudi Arabia, cannot move forward without Congressional review. Nuclear technology is too sensitive and the risks are too great to allow for these agreements to move forward in the dark.”

Specifically, the legislation amends the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 mandate that:

  • The Secretary of Energy with the concurrence of the Secretary of State submit a quarterly report to Congress summarizing any 810 authorizations reviewed and approved or rejected during the previous quarter. The Energy Department must also submit all 810 applications submitted to the Department for review;
  • The DOE to retroactively turn over all 810 authorizations and applications dating back to 2015 when DOE most recently revised its 810 application review process; and
  • Provide Congress the authority to request that any 810 application-pending or approved-by turned over to Congress within ten days.

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.