Department of Energy
Washington, DC 20585

March 24, 1999

Mr. Paul Leventhal
Nuclear Control Institute
1000 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Suite 804
Washington D C 20037

Dear Mr. Leventhal:

Your letter dated January 21, 1999, to Secretary Richardson concerning the physical protection of mixed plutonium/uranium oxide fuel (MOX) to be shipped from Europe to Japan has been referred to my office for a response.

The Department of Energy is committed to ensuring that the physical protection for such shipments is appropriate. Accordingly, my staff and physical protection experts of the Sandia National Laboratory have carefully studied the plan for transportation of MOX from the United Kingdom and France to Japan. They concluded that the plan fully meets the standards required by the 1988 U.S.-Japan Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation and that the physical protection measures stipulated in the plan are equal to, or more rigorous than, the measures applied to the successful shipment of bulk plutonium dioxide from France to Japan in 1992.

In your letter you note that Annex 5 of the Implementing Agreement to the Agreement for Cooperation between the United States and Japan Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy provides that any plutonium transport ship will be escorted by an armed escort vessel unless alternative security measures effectively compensate for the absence of an armed escort vessel. The current transportation plan provides for two armed vessels escorting and protecting each other. The combined armament of the two vessels is greater than that of the single escort vessel of the 1992 shipment, and each of the vessels is capable of protecting itself and of providing supporting fire to the other vessel should there be a need to do so.

The two vessels are not mere armed "freighters" but highly sophisticated ships built specifically to carry nuclear materials in a safe and secure manner. The vessels are highly maneuverable and can deploy high-speed boats. The vessels will be on United Kingdom government service and authorized to protect themselves and their cargo.

The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary (UKAEAC) will provide protective forces on each of the two vessels. The UKAEAC is a specially trained antiterrorist police force responsible for the protection of nuclear material in the United Kingdom. UKAEAC personnel are highly screened and receive extensive weapons training including specialized training from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines for sea transport operations.

As concerns your proposal to arm the vessels with a system to defend against anti-ship missiles, such an anti-missile defense was not deemed necessary for the 1992 physical protection system, nor do we believe it is required today, given the nature of the likely threat. The transportation plan is designed to protect the ships and their cargo against sub-national threats. Such threats have never used, and they are not believed to possess, anti-ship missile systems capable of targeting moving ships and inflicting sufficient damage to sink such ships.

The Department stands on previous commitments to evaluate any proposed alternative security measures that differ significantly from an armed escort vessel as a new subsequent arrangement under Section 131 of the Atomic Energy Act, as amended. In this instance, however, a subsequent arrangement is not required. As I have explained, the arrangements contemplated do not differ from an armed escort vessel.

Although there are no statutory requirements to report the final transportation plan to Congress as a subsequent arrangement, a written notification will be given to the chairmen of the House International Relations Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee prior to the conclusion of U.S.-Japan consultations.

Please accept my thanks for your continued attention to this important issue. While I fully support the interagency review process and conclusions for this case, I value your input and your scrutiny. If you have further comments, please contact me at (202) 586-2102.


Leonard S. Spector
Office of Arms Control and

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