Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer – Paul K. Kerr, Analyst in Nonproliferation; Mary Beth D. Nikitin, Specialist in Nonproliferation. May 14, 2014.
“Under existing law (Atomic Energy Act [AEA] of 1954, as amended; P.L. 95-242; 42 U.S.C. §2153 et seq.) all significant U.S. nuclear cooperation with other countries requires a peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement. Significant nuclear cooperation includes the transfer of U.S.-origin special nuclear material subject to licensing for commercial, medical, and industrial purposes. Such agreements, which are “congressional-executive agreements” requiring congressional approval, do not guarantee that cooperation will take place or that nuclear material will be transferred, but rather set the terms of reference and authorize cooperation. The AEA includes requirements for an agreement’s content, conditions for the President to exempt an agreement from those requirements, presidential determinations and other supporting information to be submitted to Congress, conditions affecting the implementation of an agreement once it takes effect, and procedures for Congress to consider and approve the agreement. Section 123 of the AEA requires that any agreement for nuclear cooperation meet nine nonproliferation criteria and that the President submit any such agreement to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The Department of State is required to provide the President with an unclassified Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS), which the President is to submit, along with the agreement, to those two committees. The State Department is also required to provide a classified annex to the NPAS, prepared in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence. The NPAS is meant to explain how the agreement meets the AEA nonproliferation requirements. The President must also make a written determination “that the performance of the proposed agreement will promote and will not constitute an unreasonable risk to, the common defense and security.”