Nuclear Energy Cooperation with Foreign Countries: Issues for Congress [July 11, 2011]   [open pdf - 532KB]

"U.S. civil nuclear cooperation agreements ('123' agreements), which are bilateral agreements with other governments or multilateral organizations, have several important goals, including promoting the U.S. nuclear industry, which is increasingly dependent on foreign customers and suppliers, and preventing nuclear proliferation. Increased international interest in nuclear power has generated concern that additional countries may obtain fuel-making technology that could also be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. Ensuring the peaceful use of transferred nuclear technology has long been a major U.S. objective, and Congress has played a key role. For example, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978, which amended the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954, added new requirements for nuclear cooperation with the United States. Moreover, the United States has been a longtime proponent of restrictive international nuclear export policies. In recent years, some observers and Members of Congress have advocated that the United States adopt new conditions for civil nuclear cooperation. These would include requiring potential recipients of U.S. civil nuclear technology to forgo fuel-making enrichment and reprocessing technologies and to bring into force an Additional Protocol to their International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreements. Such protocols augment the IAEA's legal authority to inspect nuclear facilities. Civil nuclear commerce, particularly reactor transfers, may not be a near-term proliferation threat: all but three states (India, Israel, and Pakistan, all of which have nuclear weapons) are parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT); all legitimate transfers of nuclear technology to NPT non-nuclear-weapon states are subject to IAEA safeguards; and no country with comprehensive safeguards in place and a record in good standing with the IAEA has used declared nuclear facilities to produce fissile material for weapons."

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CRS Report for Congress, R41910
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