U.S.-Russian Nuclear Agreement Raises Serious Concerns

On May 13, President George W. Bush submitted to Congress an agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation with the Russian Federation. The “123 agreement”–named after a provision of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act–would establish a 30-year framework for nuclear commerce between the former Cold War enemies, allowing the transfer of nuclear commodities such as reactor components and U.S. government-owned technologies and materials to Russia.

Support from some quarters was almost immediate. In a May 30 New York Times op-ed, Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar and former Georgia Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, architects of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, wrote that passage of the 123 agreement would stop Russia from helping countries like Iran “walk up to the threshold of a nuclear bomb by building an enrichment plant for allegedly peaceful energy needs, and then simply renounce its binding obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty not to build a bomb.” Similarly, a Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) report by former Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Robert Einhorn, Bulletin Science and Security Board member Rose Gottemoeller, former State Department official Fred McGoldrick, Scowcroft Group principal Dan Poneman, and former Energy Department official Jon Wolfsthal concluded that the 123 agreement will “facilitate cooperation in preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.” Pavel Podvig, a Bulletin web-edition columnist and Stanford research associate at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, flatly states that anyone against the agreement is simply wrong, “[W]hatever their concerns, blocking the cooperation agreement is the worst way to address them.”
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Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, served as senior policy adviser to the Energy Department’s secretary and deputy assistant secretary for national security and the environment from 1993 to 1999.