Remarks by Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA)
At the 20th Anniversary of the Nuclear Control Institute
April 9, 2001
Thank you very much for inviting me to address this great forum and occasion today.
For twenty years, Paul Leventhal and the Nuclear Control Institute have been working to safeguard us from the dangers of irresponsible and malicious use of nuclear materials. For years prior to forming NCI, Paul played an absolutely crucial role as a Senate staff member, helping to abolish the Atomic Energy Commission, produce the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and direct the investigations of the Three Mile Island accident. These were three milestones in nuclear materials management of the 1970s and early 1980s. And if Paul hadn't be around to split the role of the Atomic Energy Commission between the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy, I would have had to spend time doing it, so I am indebted to him for his tremendous accomplishments on Capitol Hill.
Since then, Paul and NCI have fought the good fight against plutonium, particularly the transfer of that material between the civilian and military sectors. And that battle continues today. We now have reports that the Bush Administration is putting a halt to plutonium immobilization efforts. They apparently would rather recycle surplus weapons-grade plutonium into lethal MOX fuel, a mixture of uranium and plutonium oxides, for use in commercial power plants. "Recycling." If you put it that way, the Administration sounds like a bunch of environmentalists. But Paul and NCI have shown the risks of using MOX fuel, that a radiological release involving MOX fuel will pose a greater cancer threat to the public. When you put it in those terms, you don't need to be a nuclear physicist to know that we should say nix to MOX.
Another recent issue also of concern to me that Paul and NCI have labored on is the proposed end of the OSRE program, the Operational Safeguards Response Evaluation program, which ensures that our domestic nuclear reactors are protected against terrorist attacks. After all, why build a ballistic missile to rain down a nuclear payload on the US when all you need is a small, well-trained, well-armed force to break inside a reactor, cripple safety systems, and send the whole thing critical? Why does the industry want the NRC to replace the OSRE program with the industry-supported Safeguards Performance Assessment program? Perhaps it is the fact that the nuclear industry fails nearly half of the OSRE inspections! Paul and NCI have been fighting this move as they continue their vital work to keep us all safe. I salute them for their work.
Now, as it turns out, this year is another anniversary; this year marks my 25th year in Congress. And during that time, I've worked in the House of Representatives to fight some of the same battles as NCI has. The subject of today's conference, the connection between nuclear power and nuclear arms, has been a particular concern of mine since my early years in the House. From the 1980 attempt by President Carter to ship nuclear fuel to India' s Tarapur plant, to today's possibility of supplying nuclear materials and technology to North Korea, I have been pleased to fight alongside NCI to prevent efforts to weaken the non-proliferation regime and propagate the nuclear genie around the world.
For example, last year I joined with Representative Christopher Cox to offer an amendment to protect the American taxpayer from the potential liability associated with nuclear accidents in North Korea, and my colleague Representative Ben Gilman and I introduced a bill to hold the North Koreans to their non- proliferation obligations by enhancing Congressional oversight of any nuclear transfers. Recently I joined my colleagues Henry Hyde and Christopher Cox in writing to President Bush to encourage him to reconsider, in consultation with the Congress, the suitability of providing light water nuclear reactors to North Korea. NCI has played an important leadership role in helping to educate Congress and the public about the risks posed by North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
At the same time, we all recognize the sensitive nature of our relationship with North Korea. I feel strongly that we must engage the North Koreans in a new dialogue in order to bring real benefits to the people there. The light water reactors to be supplied according to the Agreed Framework are several years behind schedule, and even if they are built, they could not be hooked up to North Korea's unreliable electric grid. What we need now is a proposal that solves North Korea 's energy problems and leads to long-term reconciliation on the Korean peninsula without triggering a new threat of nuclear weapons proliferation. Accordingly, I have been developing an approach that I believe will accomplish these goals. After the Easter recess, I will introduce a new Emergency Energy Relief Package for North Korea that promises to provide additional electric generation on a much shorter timeframe, and an upgrade of the distribution system, so that North Korea receives the power it needs sooner. These initiatives should be pursued in close collaboration with our partners, South Korea, Japan, and the European Union. Let me be more specific:
First, I propose providing North Korea with a total of 2000 Megawatts of coal-fired power, with at least 500 Megawatts in smaller units to provide power for mining operations. As opposed to waiting the better part of decade or longer, it will take 2 to 3 years to build these plants.
Second, I will propose $1 billion towards the reconstruction of the electricity grid. Press reports from 1995 indicated that North Korea had asked the United States to provide up to $1 billion for support including "new transformer lines and electrical power substations", and we refused. So as to make a unified Korean Peninsular electric grid, I will encourage the South Koreans to contribute both technically and financially to the reconstruction.
Thirdly, I will propose ending the shipments of heavy fuel oil and replacing those with supplemental coal shipments for the next several years to provide North Korea with the power to bring its economy up to speed. I understand that there is only one power plant in North Korea that is designed for heavy fuel oil; otherwise this sulfur-rich fuel is used in plants designed to bum coal. North Korea has reserves of coal, and a portion of our aid package would include support for improving their indigenous production of coal and refurbishing their current coal-fired plants.
Over the next few weeks, I will be talking to both Chairman Hyde and Representative Cox about this proposal. I am not saying we have to abandon the Agreed Framework altogether, but I have come to the conclusion that its provisions don't do any good in providing electricity for the people of North Korea in the next 5-10 years. And the light water reactors' primary benefit for North Korea would be in providing nuclear material. For the United States, nuclear power is a wonderful technology that has the unfortunate byproduct of nuclear waste. But for countries like Iraq or North Korea, nuclear power is a wonderful way to get fissile material, and it has the byproduct of also producing electricity. For much like Iraq does not need nuclear power when they can reach down and scratch the surface of their land and bring up oil, neither does North Korea need nuclear power in its present state of development --in the sense that no one needs cars if you have yet to build roads.
I appreciate the irony of making these proposals as a preliminary to introducing Bob Gallucci, who was the chief negotiator of the U .S.-North Korean Agreed Framework in 1994, an agreement which, it can be argued, saved us from potential military confrontation, but which committed us to providing nuclear materials and technology to a country that has resisted fulfilling its obligations under the Nuclear Non- proliferation Treaty. I understand, however, that Bob has indicated in previous statements his support for exploring some of the sorts of initiatives I am proposing.
Over the years, Bob has performed many great services for our country. His foreign service career stretches back to 1974 when he started at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. And before brokering the Agreed Framework, he was the Deputy Executive Chairman of UNSCOM, the inspection program after the Gulf War to uncover and end the Iraqis' nuclear program. Furthermore, in March 1998 he began serving as the Department of State's Special Envoy against proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. We are very fortunate to have had him serve our country in these capacities, we also are fortunate that he is here in town at Georgetown University, where he is Dean of the School of Foreign Service, and where he can be a resource to us all. We are very fortunate to have him to speak to us today. Ladies and gentlemen, Bob Gallucci.