10.05.07

Schiff Introduces Legislation Calling on the President to Work to Close a Dangerous Nuclear Loophole

Washington, DC – Continuing his career-long effort to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent nations that violate and then withdraw from the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) from keeping nuclear materials or technology obtained through the treaty.  The measure would also encourage the President to pursue a U.N. Security Council Resolution that declares that withdrawal from the NPT requires the return of any internationally-obtained nuclear materials or technology.

“Unfortunately, it now appears that the shortest path to a nuclear weapon passes through the NPT,” said Schiff.  “Countries obtain nuclear assistance while being signatories to the NPT, and later violate and withdraw from the treaty retaining their ill-gotten nuclear gains. This appears to be the case with North Korea, and, if we don't stop them, may be true of Iran.  This is a dangerous loophole in the Treaty that must be closed.”

The NPT has played an important role in reducing the number of nuclear nations. In the four decades since it was signed, only five additional nations have developed nuclear weapons and only four of those possess them now, far fewer than experts predicted at the time. However, the treaty is under increasing strain due to rogue states that use the nuclear energy cooperation that the NPT promises to non-nuclear-weapon states as a stepping stone to nuclear weapons.

By attaching a clear penalty, nations would be discouraged from using the NPT to obtain nuclear technology and simply “opting out” at the last moment.  Over the last few years, North Korea demonstrated that it was possible to use the NPT to obtain dual-use nuclear energy technology that allowed it to proceed most of the way down the path to nuclear weapons, before leaving the treaty and developing weapons in short order. Now, Iran appears to be following the same route, enriching uranium that is nominally for use in nuclear reactors, but could easily be fed into a nuclear weapons program.

Congressman Schiff has been a leading voice in Congress on efforts to secure vulnerable stockpiles of weapons materials.  In May, Rep. Schiff introduced the bipartisan Ending Nuclear Trafficking Act, to bolster efforts to deter and prevent nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists.  In the 109th Congress, he introduced legislation to expand the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program and establish an Office of Nonproliferation Programs in the Executive Office of the President.  In April 2004, Rep. Schiff introduced H.R. 4212 which would have created a Presidential Task Force within the Department of Energy to focus on an immediate strategy to secure nuclear material around the world.  He also introduced legislation (H.R. 2063) to expand the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program to include countries outside the former Soviet Union, such as Pakistan, India, North Korea, China, Iran and Iraq in May of 2003.  That same month, he joined Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) in offering an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to strengthen the United States' efforts to safeguard or destroy weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related materials around the world.