View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 3, 1999


I am pleased to transmit to the Congress, pursuant to sections 123 b. and 123 d. of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (42 U.S.C. 2153(b), (d)), the text of a proposed Agreement for Cooperation Between the United States of America and Australia Concerning Technology for the Separation of Isotopes of Uranium by Laser Excitation, with accompanying annexes and agreed minute. I am also pleased to transmit my written approval, authorization, and determination concerning the Agreement, and an unclassified Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS) concerning the Agreement. (In accordance with section 123 of the Act, as amended by title XII of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-277), a classified annex to the NPAS, prepared by the Secretary of State in consultation with the Director of Central Intelligence, summarizing relevant classified information, will be submitted to the Congress separately.) The joint memorandum submitted to me by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Energy, which includes a summary of the provisions of the Agreement and the views of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is also enclosed.

A U.S. company and an Australian company have entered into a contract jointly to develop and evaluate the commercial potential of a particular uranium enrichment process (known as the "SILEX" process) invented by the Australian company. If the commercial viability of the process is demonstrated, the U.S. company may adopt it to enrich uranium for sale to U.S. and foreign utilities for use as reactor fuel.

Research on and development of the new enrichment process may require transfer from the United States to Australia of technology controlled by the United States as sensitive nuclear technology or Restricted Data. Australia exercises similar controls on the transfer of such technology outside Australia. There is currently in force an Agreement Between the United States of America and Australia Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, signed at Canberra July 5, 1979 (the "1979 Agreement"). However, the 1979 Agreement does not permit transfers of sensitive nuclear technology and Restricted Data between the parties unless specifically provided for by an amendment or by a separate agreement.

Accordingly, the United States and Australia have negotiated, as a complement to the 1979 Agreement, a specialized agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation to provide the necessary legal basis for transfer of the relevant technology between the two countries for peaceful purposes.

The proposed Agreement provides for cooperation between the parties and authorized persons within their respective jurisdictions in research on and development of the SILEX process (the particular process for the separation of isotopes of uranium by laser excitation). The Agreement permits the transfer for peaceful purposes from Australia to the United States and from the United States to Australia, subject to the nonproliferation conditions and controls set forth in the Agreement, of Restricted Data, sensitive nuclear technology, sensitive nuclear facilities, and major critical components of such facilities, to the extent that these relate to the SILEX technology.

The nonproliferation conditions and controls required by the Agreement are the standard conditions and controls required by section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act, as amended by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978 (NNPA), for all new U.S. agreements for peaceful nuclear cooperation. These include safeguards, a guarantee of no explosive or military use, a guarantee of adequate physical protection, and rights to approve re-transfers, enrichment, reprocessing, other alterations in form or content, and storage. The Agreement contains additional detailed provisions for the protection of sensitive nuclear technology, Restricted Data, sensitive nuclear facilities, and major critical components of such facilities transferred pursuant to it.

Material, facilities, and technology subject to the Agreement may not be used to produce highly enriched uranium without further agreement of the parties.

The Agreement also provides that cooperation under it within the territory of Australia will be limited to research on and development of SILEX technology, and will not be for the purpose of constructing a uranium enrichment facility in Australia unless provided for by an amendment to the Agreement. The United States would treat any such amendment as a new agreement pursuant to section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act, including the requirement for congressional review.

Australia is in the forefront of nations supporting international efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional countries. It is a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and has an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the application of full-scope safeguards to its nuclear program. It subscribes to the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) Guidelines, which set forth standards for the responsible export of nuclear commodities for peaceful use, and to the Zangger (NPT Exporters) Committee Guidelines, which oblige members to require the application of IAEA safeguards on nuclear exports to nonnuclear weapon states. In addition, Australia is a party to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, whereby it has agreed to apply international standards of physical protection to the storage and transport of nuclear material under its jurisdiction or control.

The proposed Agreement with Australia has been negotiated in accordance with the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, and other applicable law. In my judgment, it meets all statutory requirements and will advance the nonproliferation, foreign policy, and commercial interests of the United States.

A consideration in interagency deliberations on the Agreement was the potential consequences of the Agreement for U.S. military needs. If SILEX technology is successfully developed and becomes operational, then all material produced by and through this technology would be precluded from use in the U.S. nuclear weapons and naval nuclear propulsion programs. Furthermore, all other military uses of this material, such as tritium production and material testing, would also not be possible because of the assurances given to the Government of Australia. Yet, to ensure the enduring ability of the United States to meet its common defense and security needs, the United States must maintain its military nuclear capabilities. Recognizing this requirement and the restrictions being placed on the SILEX technology, the Department of Energy will monitor closely the development of SILEX but ensure that alternative uranium enrichment technologies are available to meet the requirements for national security.

I have considered the views and recommendations of the interested agencies in reviewing the proposed Agreement and have determined that its performance will promote, and will not constitute an unreasonable risk to, the common defense and security. Accordingly, I have approved the Agreement and authorized its execution and urge that the Congress give it favorable consideration.

Because this Agreement meets all applicable requirements of the Atomic Energy Act, as amended, for agreements for peaceful nuclear cooperation, I am transmitting it to the Congress without exempting it from any requirement contained in section 123 a. of that Act. This transmission shall constitute a submittal for purposes of both sections 123 b. and 123 d. of the Atomic Energy Act. My Administration is prepared to begin immediately the consultations with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House International Relations Committee as provided in section 123 b. Upon completion of the 30-day continuous session period provided for in section 123 b., the 60-day continuous session period provided for in section 123 d. shall commence.

                           WILLIAM J. CLINTON
                           THE WHITE HOUSE,
                           November 3, 1999.

# # #