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Legislation Would Protect U.S.-Australia Atomic Trade Deal

Recently introduced U.S. legislation would ensure that a civilian nuclear trade agreement with Australia would still enter into force even if its time runs out in Congress, Agence France-Presse reported today (see GSN, May 6).

President Obama sent the atomic trade pact to Congress for review on May 5, stating it would "advance the nonproliferation and other foreign policy interests of the United States." The deal would allow for the United States to export nuclear technology, material and equipment to Australia for atomic power generation and research purposes.

It not actively opposed by lawmakers, the agreement would go into effect automatically after 90 days of continuous legislative session. Congress, though, might recess this year before that occurs.

Incoming House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said her legislation would make sure the nuclear accord "will not be interrupted by a technicality" in U.S. law.

However, a separate U.S.-Russian nuclear trade agreement also before Congress for review "should be stopped," she asserted (see GSN, May 11).

That pact would permit companies in both nations to pursue joint nuclear activities and allow bilateral atomic technology commerce. It would also allow Russia to reprocess spent U.S. nuclear material. Former President Bush withdrew the agreement from the congressional approval process following Russia's 2008 invasion of Georgia. The Obama administration resubmitted the pact to Congress in May.

"Serious questions remain about the Russian Federation as a responsible U.S. partner," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.

Russia "continues to undermine U.S. interests in Iran, Venezuela, Central Asia and elsewhere," she said.

"Russia promotes nuclear proliferation through its reckless policies of selling nuclear facilities, technology, and materials to any country with ready cash, including constructing the Iranian nuclear reactor at Bushehr," Ros-Lehtinen added.

"If the legislative clock stops before the Russia agreement is approved, the president should not resubmit it to Congress until Moscow has changed course and has lived up to the example set by Australia," she urged (Agence France-Presse/Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 18).

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