Congress of the United States
Committee on International Relations
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

February 11, 1999

The Honorable Madeleine K. Albright
The Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Madam Secretary:

I write to express my concern about the transportation plan and security measures associated with the shipment of mixed plutonium/uraniurn oxide (MOX) fuel from Europe to Japan, which is expected to occur later this year. I am particularly disturbed that on January 20th, prior to any formal consultation with the Congress, the State Department issued press guidance providing details of the transportation plan and associated security measures which stated in part that "we regard this [new] arrangement as fully complying with the U.S.-Japan Agreement's requirement for an armed escort vessel."

As you know, under the terms of the Agreement for Cooperation between the United States and Japan concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, the U.S. must approve a transportation plan for this and all other shipments containing plutonium that was extracted from nuclear fuel originally supplied by the U.S. for use in Japanese power reactors.

On August 1, 1996, I wrote then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher to express my concerns about the physical-protection standards for these shipments in the context of a Subsequent Arrangement that had just been approved pursuant to the Agreement. This arrangement allowed Japanese-owned, U.S. obligated plutonium to be fabricated in MOX fuel in EURATOM facilities and returned by sea transport to Japan.

I asked Secretary Christopher to assure the Committee on International Relations that the physical protection measures which will be applied to any future shipments of MOX fuel from EURATOM facilities to Japan will be in accordance with the requirements of Annex 5b of the U.S.- Japan Implementing Agreement and will be no less rigorous than they were for the 1992 shipment of bulk plutonium oxide, which included an armed escort vessel.

The Secretary Of State
February 11, 1999
Page 2

In reply, then-acting Secretary Strobe Talbott confirmed that in a written understanding with the Government of Japan, the Amex 5b requirements apply to shipments of MOX fuel and thus the physical-protection measures will be no less rigorous than those applied to the 1992 shipment of bulk plutonium oxide. He said these measures include the use of an armed escort vessel "unless alternative security measures" are found mutually satisfactory. He also restated, as the position of the Clinton Administration, the position taken during the Reagan Administration by then-Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead in a December 22, 1988, letter to this Committee that "[w]e do not expect that alternative security measures for an entire voyage would be satisfactory."

Now, I understand that the Clinton Administration, reversing course from previous Administrations, has agreed to an alternative transportation plan which, according to the State Department's press guidance, envisages two transport ships (operated by Pacific Nuclear Transport LTD. (PNTL)) which will be fitted together with defensive armaments and travel together.

I am concerned that this alternative transportation plan does not meet, or is not equivalent, to the physical protection measures specified in the 1988 U.S.-Japan Agreement. In my view, escort vessels which are minimally armed and have a top speed of 13 knots, would not appear to have sufficient defensive and deterrent ability much less the maneuverability or speed of military or coast guard escort ships. With regard to armaments, I would expect that any proposed escort vessel would include a radar-directed, anti-missile defense system. I understand that in 1992 the Pentagon assessed that such a system was wan-anted given the need to defend against an attack "by small, fast craft."

I am particularly concerned about the adequacy of physical-protection measures for this shipment because it is the first of many to come and will set a precedent for protection of future shipments. In these times of increasingly sophisticated and ruthless international terrorism, Us shipment should be subject to the most stringent physical protection measures. At a minimum, the measures applied to the 1992 shipment of separated plutonium should be used for this MOX shipment, including the use of an armed escort vessel for the entire voyage.

In order to address these concerns, I would like to request that the State Department brief the Committee immediately on its proposed transportation plan and associated security measures. It is my expectation that such a briefing would provide the Committee assurances that the policy previously enunciated by then-Acting Secretary Talbott still applies and that additional physical security measures, including but not limited to anti-missile armaments are being utilized to defend against the current threat level.

I would request that the briefing include representatives from the Departments of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff (specifically a representative from the Navy), Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and Department of Energy. I would expect that the briefing DOD and JCS officials will be able to provide the Committee with an oral and written assessment of the proposed security measures for the shipment similar to DOD's 1988 assessment entitled Transportation Alternatives for the Secure Transfer of Plutonium from Europe to Japan.

The Secretary of State
February 11, 1999
Page 3

Further I would request that, prior to the briefing, the Committee be provided an oral and written community-cleared (CIA, DIA, INR) intelligence threat assessment regarding the proposed shipment.

I appreciate your attention to this letter and look forward to your earliest response.

With best wishes,



cc: The Honorable William Cohen, Secretary of Defense
The Honorable George Tenet, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
The Honorable Bill Richardson, Secretary of Energy
General Henry J. Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

[What's New] What's New      [Sea Shipments] Sea Shipments    [Home Page] Home Page