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February 22, 1996

The Honorable Warren Christopher
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Christopher,

We are concerned, based on Assistant Secretary Thomas McNamara's letter to us of February 9 in response to our January 5 letter to you, that State Department officials fail to understand the significance of a pending sale of bomb-grade, highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Russia's MINATOM to the European Union's EURATOM Supply Agency.

You will recall we advised you that the proposed sale, in addition to undermining the goals of the United States' $12 billion purchase of Russian HEU and the 18-year U.S. initiative to eliminate use of HEU in nuclear research reactors (the RERTR program), "would enable construction of Germany's FRM-II research reactor, the first large research reactor proposed to use bomb-grade fuel - outside of Libya and China - since establishment of the RERTR program." In his reply to the Nuclear Control Institute, Assistant Secretary McNamara asserted that, on the basis of information supplied by German officials, "the construction of the FRM II reactor does not appear to be dependent upon possible MINATOM supply of HEU to Western Europe."

This assessment by your department is simply inaccurate, as the following history and facts of the FRM-II case make clear:

The FRM-II is designed to use 40 kilograms of HEU fuel annually, for a total of 1.2 metric tons over its 30-year life. Because the United States refused to supply this fuel as a matter of law and policy, and because this amount of uncommitted HEU did not exist within EURATOM, Dr. Johann Meier of the Technical University-Munich (operator of the planned FRM-II) traveled to Moscow to meet with MINATOM officials on April 14, 1994, seeking HEU from Russia. When the German press reported this visit (see, for example, Suddeutsche Zeitung, May 30, 1994, attached), it stirred considerable controversy and compelled FRM-II officials to look for alternate, short-term supplies of HEU within EURATOM. In 1995, German officials claimed to have secured a 10-year supply of HEU from within existing EURATOM supplies (not "domestic" supplies as Assistant Secretary McNamara writes), consisting apparently of U.S.-origin HEU previously designated for three reactors in France and Belgium that still require HEU and one EURATOM-operated reactor in the Netherlands that can use qualified low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel but refuses to convert. This, in turn, compelled the French, Belgian and EURATOM reactor operators to look for a new source of HEU - Russia.

This brief history makes two points abundantly clear. First, the pending MINATOM-EURATOM HEU sale is a direct consequence of the FRM-II officials' stubborn insistence on their HEU design, despite the 18-year international moratorium on such reactors and the technical feasibility, well documented by the U.S. Argonne National Laboratory, of converting the reactor to use LEU without hurting experimental performance.

Second, even if German officials have succeeded in securing a 10-year supply of HEU from within existing EURATOM stocks, the FRM-II will still require another 800 kilograms of HEU. German authorities are unlikely to permit construction of a 30-year reactor with only a 10-year assured supply of fuel. Thus, contrary to Assistant Secretary McNamara's assertion, the construction and operation of the FRM-II seem heavily dependent upon the supply of HEU from MINATOM. Indeed, in a December 7, 1995 letter to Bundestag member Simone Probst (attached), Bernd Neumann, the Parliamentary State Secretary for the Federal Minister of Education, Science, Research and Technology, retracted previous disavowals and conceded that, "today, I can no longer rule out that negotiations will also take place with Russia."

We continue to believe that German officials can be influenced to accept a redesign of the FRM-II to LEU fuel if the United States can prevail with Russia not to sell HEU to EURATOM. We urge you to press this matter with Moscow and to offer Germany fills U.S. technical assistance in redesigning the FRM-II. As Members of Congress have informed you separately, the MINATOM sale has begun to complicate Congressional acceptance of the U.S. purchase of Russian HEU and the proposed U.S.-EURATOM agreement. Beyond "raising concerns," the United States should warn both Russia and Germany that any new supply or use of HEU for research reactors violates vital U.S. security and non-proliferation interests.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.


Paul Leventhal

Alan Kuperman
Senior Policy Analyst


cc: Hazel O'Leary, Secretary of Energy
Anthony Lake, National Security Advisor
Lynn Davis, Under Secretary of State
James Goodby, Special Representative of the President
Jesse Helms, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Claiborne Pell, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Benjamin Gilman, House International Relations Committee

Lee Hamilton, House International Relations Committee
Richard Lugar, U.S. Senate
John Glenn, U.S. Senate
Jim Leach, U.S. House of Representatives
Charles Schumer, U.S. House of Representatives
Pete Stark, U.S. House of Representatives
Howard Berman, U.S. House of Representatives
Ed Markey, U.S. House of Representatives

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