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Rubio Joins Colleagues on Bill to Ensure Congressional Oversight of all Nuclear Technology Transfers Overseas

Apr 10, 2019 | Press Releases

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA),Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Todd Young (R-IN)  today  to introduce legislation to ensure that Congress is made aware when the U.S. government or companies are engaging in nuclear cooperation overseas and that Congress has the legislative authority to review all materials related to so-called “Part 810 authorizations”.
Part 810 agreements are authorizations for the transfer of nuclear services, technology, or assistance issues to any U.S. person or entities conducting with overseas governments. The authorizations, which are approved by the Secretary of Energy, are non-public and not subject the Congressional oversight. The 801 authorizations are unlike peaceful civil nuclear cooperation agreements – also called 123 agreements – which are subject to Congressional approval. The Senators are introducing the legislation after it was revealed that the Trump administration recently granted six secret authorizations that allow companies to begin providing nuclear technology, including the transfer of knowledge and expertise, to 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.
“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,” Rubio said. “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 Trump administration should not be allowed to bypass Congress to assist authoritarian regimes like Saudi Arabia’s and hand over sensitive U.S. nuclear technology or expertise,” Markey said. “This administration and its industry friends are not the ones who get to decide whether Congress reviews 810 authorizations. We need legislation to mandate that any 810 authorizations are subject to Congressional review. We must ensure that authoritarians like Mohammad bin Salman never end up with the American technology or materials to make a nuclear bomb.”
“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,” Kaine said. “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 transfer of nuclear technology overseas poses a major threat to our security as a nation and demands rigorous Congressional oversight,” Young said. “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.”
The full text of the legislation can be found here.
Specifically, the legislation amends the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 to:

  • Require DOE to turn over to Congress, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), all 810 authorization applications it has received on a quarterly basis in the form of a summary report of all of the approvals and annexes that contain every 810 authorization whether it was approved or denied/has been made public or kept private at the company’s request;
  • Require DOE to turn over all 810 authorizations within a period of time dating back to 2015 when DOE issued its most recent rule/process for reviewing 810 authorizations; and
  • Provide the Chair and Ranking Member of SFRC and HFAC authority to request any 810 application (pending or approved) and gives DOE ten days to turn over the records.