At least one nuclear deal with Russia is in the clear
Yesterday, an agreement — originally negotiated under the Bush administration — allowing for civil nuclear cooperation between the United States and Russia passed its final milestone before taking effect. Such agreements are required under section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act before any significant cooperation involving nuclear technology may take place, and are already in ...
Yesterday, an agreement — originally negotiated under the Bush administration — allowing for civil nuclear cooperation between the United States and Russia passed its final milestone before taking effect. Such agreements are required under section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act before any significant cooperation involving nuclear technology may take place, and are already in force with some 50 other nations and entities. Given that the United States and Russia have two of the largest nuclear industries in the world, the absence of such an agreement was an anomaly.
The agreement does not require any specific actions. Rather it serves as a framework that will enable cooperation on projects established under later deals. A recently concluded joint study by Harvard’s Managing the Atom Project and Russia’s Kurchatov Institute (in which I participated), concluded that promising areas for future work include: commercial cooperation on new reactor designs, including factory-built reactors with high levels of inherent safety, security, and proliferation-resistance; establishing “cradle-to-grave” fuel services to address waste disposition and nuclear weapons proliferation issues associated with atomic energy; and, use by U.S. firms of Russia’s more extensive base of experimental facilities. None of these activities are guaranteed by the “123 Agreement,” but none are possible without it.
In the long run, the “123 Agreement” with Russia may prove to be even more significant than the far more controversial New START Treaty. It focuses on future areas of cooperation, rather than on Cold War nuclear arsenals, which both nations were reducing with or without an agreement. It can facilitate new approaches to energy production that will make nuclear power safer, more secure, and less susceptible to abuse by would-be nuclear weapons proliferators. Finally, it is one of the few points of genuine intersection between the U.S. and Russian economies.
Some have criticized the deal because of Russia’s nuclear proliferation track record. There is no doubt that Russia’s proliferation record has not been good, but it has improved in recent years, perhaps in part because of the far larger opportunities offered by legitimate nuclear commerce that could otherwise be put at risk. Indeed, the “123 Agreement” actually creates more leverage to stem proliferation, because valuable cooperation could be cut off, whereas prior to the Agreement, it simply was not possible.
As leading nuclear states, Russia and the United States should be working together to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation, while addressing the world’s energy needs. The new “123 Agreement” will help to advance these vital and common interests.
More from Foreign Policy
America Is a Heartbeat Away From a War It Could Lose
Global war is neither a theoretical contingency nor the fever dream of hawks and militarists.
The West’s Incoherent Critique of Israel’s Gaza Strategy
The reality of fighting Hamas in Gaza makes this war terrible one way or another.
Biden Owns the Israel-Palestine Conflict Now
In tying Washington to Israel’s war in Gaza, the U.S. president now shares responsibility for the broader conflict’s fate.
Taiwan’s Room to Maneuver Shrinks as Biden and Xi Meet
As the latest crisis in the straits wraps up, Taipei is on the back foot.