FPI Executive Director Jamie Fly signs open letter on Taiwan and the nonproliferation "Gold Standard"

September 20, 2012

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500 

Dear Mr. President,

We are encouraged by reports that Taiwan has embraced the nonproliferation “Gold Standard” for civil nuclear activities in the forthcoming renewal of its existing nuclear cooperative agreement with the U.S., expressly giving up enriching uranium and recycling spent fuel to extract plutonium. We are concerned, however, that the State Department may not secure similar commitments in negotiations for civil nuclear cooperation agreements with Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Jordan, Vietnam, and other non-nuclear-weapon states. We therefore urge you to clarify U.S. policy on seeking such commitments before either negotiating or initialing any additional civil nuclear cooperation agreements beyond that with Taiwan.

As recent experience with Iran demonstrates, mastery of the technical steps involved in making nuclear fuel brings states perilously close to acquiring nuclear weapons. That is why the U.S. civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), which entered into force in December 2009, was path-breaking. Through this agreement, the U.A.E. pledged not only to foreswear nuclear fuel-making activities, but to sign and implement the so-called “Additional Protocol,” which allows the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct much more intrusive nuclear inspections than those permitted under standard safeguards agreements.

When the text of the U.S.-U.A.E. nuclear agreement was made public, the State Department described it as creating a new nonproliferation “Gold Standard” for civil nuclear cooperation agreements. At the time, you praised the agreement as a "tangible expression" of America's desire to cooperate to develop peaceful nuclear power with states in "the Middle East, and elsewhere" in "a manner consistent with the highest nonproliferation, safety and security standards." Yet, in an unfortunate reversal of policy earlier this year, senior officials from the State and Energy Departments told Congress in a letter that they believed efforts to universally apply the new standard would disadvantage the U.S. nuclear industry and, as a consequence, the U.S. instead would take a “case-by-case” approach.

We understand that in response to Congressional and public criticism of the decision to abandon the nonproliferation “Gold Standard,” the Executive Branch launched an interagency review, which the State Department has now completed and submitted to the National Security Council.

Defining the nonproliferation conditions the United States intends to place on its civil nuclear cooperation in general is essential to protecting U.S. interests, and we believe requiring that the “Gold Standard” be met in all U.S. nuclear cooperative agreements with states that lack nuclear weapons is the necessary set of conditions to achieve that end.

Indeed, we believe our government should not only support such requirements, but actively encourage other nuclear supplier states to do so as well. Therefore, we urge you to end the ambiguity that has arisen concerning this vital issue and to clearly state that it is U.S. policy is to apply the “Gold Standard.”


Congressman Howard L. Berman
Ambassador John R. Bolton
Peter A. Bradford
Charles D. Ferguson
Jamie M. Fly
Congressman Jeff Fortenberry
Victor Gilinsky
Daryl G. Kimball
Jodi Lieberman
Congressman Edward J. Markey
Gary Milhollin
Christopher E. Paine
Kingston Reif
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Congressman Ed Royce
Congresswomen Loretta Sanchez
Gary J. Schmitt
Congressman Brad Sherman
Henry D. Sokolski
Leonard S. Spector
William H. Tobey
Leonard Weiss

- Download a copy of this letter in PDF format

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The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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