Jeffrey LewisHEU Exports Revisited


My physician would like to run some tests.
Please send HEU to me, c/o Dr. Ayman
al-Zawahiri, Pakistan. COD is okay.

Stephen Young, once and future guest blogger at ACW, highlighted an obscure provision in the soon-to-pass Energy bill that would undermine efforts to gradually end U.S. exports of highly enriched uranium.

Michael Grunwald in the Washington Post describes the “Burr Amendment” and the lobbyists working for the Canadian company that stands to benefit:

In one House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) demanded that lobbyists from the Alpine Group—who have promoted Nordion’s interests on behalf of a nuclear medicine trade group—raise their hands and identify themselves.

“I’ve never done that before, but this is outrageous,” Markey said. “To save one Canadian company some money, we’re willing to blow a hole in our nonproliferation policies.”

[snip]

Since 2003, the Alpine Group’s main energy lobbyists—James D. Massie, Richard C. White and Rhod Shaw—have contributed more than $25,000 to members of the energy committees, and nuclear medicine trade groups have donated tens of thousands more. They have also drummed up support from doctors; the computer signature on one letter to a senator, purportedly written by a radiologist, was actually White’

For what it is worth, Physicians for Social Responsibility doesn’t buy the argument that the Burr Amendment is necessary to supply medical isotopes. The Union of Concerned Scientists also has a fact sheet.

And no, the Burr Admendment would not allow direct-mail sale of HEU. It’s called satire. Of course, if anyone in Al-Qaeda would like to send a current mailing address for either Mr. bin Laden or Dr. al-Zawahiri, ACW will put you in touch with the, um, relevant US authorities.

Comments

  1. Scott Parrish (History)

    Good post,

    You could also mention that the administration, despite its rhetoric about preventing nuclear terrorism, has not taken a position on the Burr Amendment. Rep. Markey’s office asked DOE for an opinion on it, and has gotten no response.

    So now the U.S. will be going around under GRTI trying to convince other countries to give up HEU, while we sell it to Nordion at the same time. My guess is that this will make it harder to sell the Ukrainians, for example, on the need to give up their remaining stocks of civilian HEU.

    Assuming the energy bill passes, this could be a very bad day for limiting access to HEU. There was a RIA-Novosti article out of Moscow this morning (http://en.rian.ru/russia/20050728/40992299.html)
    announcing that Rosatom signed a deal with China to build a HEU-fuelled floating power reactor in North Russia.

    While they’ve been disucssing this project for years, it’s beginning to sound as if they might really build it…which would put more HEU into civilian use. Not good news from a proliferation standpoint.

  2. Allen Thomson (History)

    Of course, if anyone in Al-Qaeda would like to send a current mailing address for either Mr. bin Laden or Dr. al-Zawahiri, ACW will put you in touch with the, um, relevant US authorities.

    I’m sure that the relevant authorities would be happy with just the latitude and longitude.

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