December 02, 2020

Following Adoption of Van Hollen Amendment, Senate Committee Passes Bipartisan American Nuclear Infrastructure Act

Senator’s Amendment Made Significant, Substantive Changes to Strengthen Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) released the following statement regarding the Committee on Environment and Public Works’ passage of the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act and the adoption of the Senator’s amendment to the legislation:

“Modernizing our nation’s nuclear energy infrastructure and export controls has important benefits at home and abroad. That’s why I’m glad that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today came together on a bipartisan basis to improve and pass new legislation that will expand domestic carbon-free energy opportunities while bolstering our nuclear nonproliferation efforts across the globe. While I continue to oppose parts of the legislation, the Committee’s adoption of my non-proliferation amendment will significantly strengthen our efforts to prevent nuclear material from falling into the wrong hands and being used for nuclear weapons. As the bill moves through the legislative process, I will continue working to address other areas of concern – including the need to increase investments in our clean energy economy across the board. I will keep fighting to curb the spread of nuclear weapons while strengthening our national infrastructure, protecting our environment, combatting climate change, and expanding renewable energy. These objectives go hand-in-hand.”

Background on Senator Van Hollen’s Amendment:

A new generation of nuclear fuel cycle technologies and reactor types – including nuclear fuel containing separated plutonium or U-233, reactors that use these fuels, and equipment involved in reprocessing – poses significant proliferation and nuclear terrorism risks. This amendment would prevent foreign buyers from misusing or diverting these advanced technologies for nuclear weapons programs or from leaving them vulnerable to theft or sabotage. 

Specifically, the amendment would require, as a precondition to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) issuance of export licenses for these proliferation-sensitive items, that the recipient country 1) conclude and ratify an Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and 2) be a state party to the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM). The Additional Protocol and the CPPNM represent, respectively, the highest international standards for nonproliferation safeguards and physical protection measures. The amendment also authorizes the NRC to grant a waiver for the aforementioned requirements if the transfer of the restricted materials is not inimical to the interests of the United States.

Text of the Senator’s amendment can be found here, and the Senator’s full statement for the record on the legislation can be found here.