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Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors
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Abstracts and Available Papers Presented at the
2005 International RERTR Meeting

WEAKER U.S. EXPORT CONTROLS ON BOMB-GRADE URANIUM: CAUSES, CONSEQUENCES, AND PROSPECTS

A. J. Kuperman
Nuclear Control Institute
1000 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
and
LBJ School of Public Affairs
University of Texas
Austin, TX 78703

ABSTRACT

In summer 2005, the United States loosened restrictions on the export of bomb-grade, highly-enriched uranium (HEU) to five countries (Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands) for use as targets to produce medical isotopes. The new law represents a step backward from the quarter-century U.S. effort to phase out commerce in bomb-grade uranium to reduce risks of nuclear proliferation and terrorism. This paper first investigates the actors behind this change including foreign producers of medical isotopes, their U.S.-based lobbyists, supportive sectors of the American medical community, and the lawmakers who spearheaded efforts on Capitol Hill and their motivations. Second, it explores the dramatic and complicated legislative process that led to this weakening of export controls. Third, it projects the likely consequences in the short and long run for U.S. HEU exports, risks of nuclear terrorism, and the production of medical isotopes in the United States and elsewhere assuming the new law remains in place. Finally, the paper examines prospects for additional changes in U.S. HEU export control law, either to further loosen restrictions on export of HEU for targets and/or fuel, restore previous controls, or adopt new strategies to phase out HEU commerce.


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Last modified on July 29, 2008 11:34 +0200