Summary of HR 7801 – approving the U.S.-India peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement

HR 7801 – approving the U.S.-India peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement   ·        H.R. 7801 was approved by the House of Representatives on September 27 by a vote of 298-117, with one member voting present.  The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved identical legislation (S. 3548) on September 23 by a vote of 19-2.   ·        ...

HR 7801 – approving the U.S.-India peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement

 

·        H.R. 7801 was approved by the House of Representatives on September 27 by a vote of 298-117, with one member voting present.  The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved identical legislation (S. 3548) on September 23 by a vote of 19-2.

 

·        The bill gives final approval to the agreement with India on peaceful nuclear cooperation.  In the “Hyde Act” (P.L. 109-401), Congress set certain terms and conditions for the agreement, in order to permit the President to submit the agreement under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. 

                                                   

·        The Senate approved the Hyde Act by a vote of 85-12 on November 16, 2006 (the conference report was approved by voice vote on December 9, 2006).  Under the Hyde Act and the Atomic Energy Act, the agreement cannot enter into force unless Congress approves the agreement.

 

·        The Hyde Act required the President to make several determinations to Congress in submitting the agreement.  These included –

 

o       that India has provided the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) a credible plan to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities;

o       that India and the IAEA have concluded all legal steps required prior to signature of an IAEA safeguards agreement;

o       that India and the IAEA are making substantial progress toward concluding an Additional Protocol to the safeguards agreement, based on the Model Additional Protocol; and

o       that the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), an informal organization consisting of 44 countries, has decided by consensus to permit supply to India of nuclear items covered by the NSG guidelines.

 

·        The President made the required determinations on September 10, 2008, a few days after the NSG, meeting in Vienna, gave approval to nuclear commerce with India.

 

·        H.R. 7081 was developed on a bipartisan basis by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and in consultation with the Department of State.  The Bush Administration supports H.R. 7081.

 

·        The bill waives the 30-day consultation requirement in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, because this 30 day clock is not expected to elapse until mid-October.

 

·        The bill also improves congressional oversight, and sets forth markers regarding implementation of the agreement and U.S. non-proliferation policy, specifically:

 

1.      It makes clear that all aspects of the Atomic Energy Act and the Hyde Act other than those relating to how the agreement is approved will continue to apply to the U.S.-India agreement.

 

2.      It reaffirms that approval of the agreement is based on U.S. interpretations of its terms.  This relates to several issues, including the U.S. view that fuel assurances provided by President Bush are a political, rather than legally binding, commitment.

 

3.      It requires the President to certify that approving the agreement is consistent with the U.S. obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty not to assist or encourage India to produce nuclear weapons. 

4.      Before any licenses can be issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission under the agreement, the bill requires that India’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA enter into force, and that India file a declaration of civilian nuclear facilities under the safeguards agreement that is not “materially inconsistent” with the separation plan that India issued in 2006. 

5.      The bill requires prompt notification to Congress if India diverges from its separation plan in implementing its safeguards agreement.

 

6.      The bill establishes a procedure for congressional review of any subsequent arrangement under the agreement that would allow India to reprocess spent nuclear fuel that was derived from U.S.-supplied reactor fuel or produced with U.S.-supplied equipment.  Under current law (Section 131 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954), such arrangements take effect 15 days after notice thereof is published in the Federal Register. 

 

7.      The bill enhances general oversight of nuclear cooperation agreements by requiring that the President keep the Foreign Relations Committee “fully and currently informed” of any initiative or negotiations on new or amended civilian nuclear cooperation agreements.

 

8.      The bill requires the President to certify that it is U.S. policy to work in the Nuclear Suppliers Group to achieve further restrictions on transfers of enrichment and reprocessing equipment or technology.

 

9.      The bill also directs the President to seek international agreement on procedures to guard against the diversion of heavy water from civilian to military programs, and requires the President to keep Congress regularly apprised of how that effort is proceeding. 

 

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