On May 10, NPEC hosted a public Capitol Hill lunch seminar, "The Nonproliferation Act 40 Years On: Can it Deal with the Middle East?" on Capitol Hill to mark the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978 (NNPA). This legislation was written in response to India's 1974 "peaceful" nuclear explosion, which exploited US civilian nuclear cooperative technology and materials. The Act attempted to restrict the enrichment of uranium and the reprocessing of spent reactor fuel by all future recipients of US civilian nuclear cooperation.
A key nuclear nonproliferation challenge that the United States faces today is preventing the further spread of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities in the Middle East. This challenge is complicated by America's agreement with the UK, France, China, Russia, Germany, and the European Union to permit Iran to enrich uranium under certain restrictions.
What is the legislative history of the NNPA's restrictions on enrichment and reprocessing for non-weapon states under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty? How might the NNPA's enrichment and reprocessing restrictions relate to the kinds of nuclear cooperation the United States want to conclude or renew with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey? Should the United States go further than the NNPA requires, demanding that all recipients of civil nuclear cooperation in the Middle East adhere to the requirements of the so-called "Gold Standard" (i.e., to forswear enriching and reprocessing altogether)? Would it be constitutional to modify the NNPA to require the Gold Standard? Would it be desirable?
A distinguished panel of experts discussed these questions and more: Mark Holt, a Specialist in Energy Policy at the Congressional Research Service; Tom Karako, a Senior Fellow at CSIS; Leonard Weiss, a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University and a key author of the NNPA; and Greg Weiner, a Professor of Political Science at Assumption College. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, former Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and current Chair of its Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, also spoke about the importance of congressional oversight over international nuclear agreements.