WASHINGTON (Jun. 27)
Legislation to give Congress veto authority over U.S. government agreements to deliver nuclear reactors to foreign countries is expected to be adopted by both Houses in the wake of provisional contracts signed yesterday with Egypt and Israel. The voting is not expected until after the Congress returns July 9 from a fourth of July recess.
The legislation, signed by all 18 members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, has strong bipartisan backing. It was introduced by the committee’s chairman Rep. Melvin Price (D. III.) and its vice-chairman, Sen. John Pastore (D.R.I.).
At present an agreement must be submitted to the committee which would allow the agreement to become valid by the committee’s not taking action within 30 days after receiving it. It is not mandatory for the Joint Committee to present it to the full Congress. The new legislation provides that the Administration provide the agreements to the committee which would have 30 legislative days to review it and then submit it. whether with approval or not, to the Congress for review during the ensuing 30 legislative days.
“The committee has been concerned over loose ends in the present legislation,” committee aide told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “The new provisions give Congress a clear-cut mechanism to review all agreements–civil and military.”
Meanwhile the Atomic Energy Commission informed the JTA that its agreements with Egypt and Israel are not identical. Among the differences, a spokesman said, was that deliveries of nuclear fuel would begin to Egypt in February 1980 and to Israel 11 months later, in January 1981. Both contracts call for payment of $39 million spread over ten years. Egypt made a down payment of $660,000 and Israel $726,000. Both checks were on the Morgan Trust Co., New York Funding for the remainder of the contracts, it was intimated, will be through the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
Each country is to receive a 600-megawatt plant with construction to be completed in about eight years. Such a plant, the AEC told JTA, is sufficient to provide electrical power for an American city of about 250,000 inhabitants. The spokesman told JTA that he did not know any hidden undertakings or clauses in either agreement.
At a hearing by two House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees, AEC’s director of international programs, Abraham S. Friedman, said there was no urgency about the contracts but that if the U.S. did not sign a fuel agreement by June 30, the projects might have to be delayed a year or two.
Herbert P. Scoville and Dr. Theodore B. Taylor, former specialists at the Los Alamos scientific laboratory, said the U.S. should insist that fuel used in the plants in Egypt and Israel should be reprocessed outside the Middle East. Reprocessing yields plutonium used in atomic weapons.
Some concern was heard here that if the U.S. did not supply Egypt with a reactor, France or West Germany might. This was indicated by Secretary of State Henry, A. Kissinger, who said last week that a country other than those in Eastern Europe may be a supplier if the U.S. is not.