Growing Concern in Congress over Nuclear Materials Going to Mideast

Concern in Congress over the adequacy of safeguards on the nuclear technology and materials the Administration has decided to export to the Middle East manifested itself again Friday when the Senate International Finance Subcommittee opened hearings on the Administration’s agreements to supply reactors to Egypt and Israel.

Sen. Adlai E. Stevenson (D., Ill.), the subcommittee chairman, pointed out in an opening statement that the question of adequate controls must be examined because “we face the possibility of nuclear holocaust, International blackmail and the poisoning of the atmosphere.”

“These are not alarmist views of exaggerated concerns,” he said. “They are possibilities which we ignore at our peril.” The question, he said is now the U.S. can pursue the use of nuclear energy essential to man’s welfare without risking its use for destruction of life and civilized institutions.

MORALLY, MILITARILY OMINOUS

Sen. William Proxmire (D., Wisc.), appearing as a witness, testified that the combination of the nuclear test by India and the U.S. offers to Egypt and Israel is “morally and militarily ominous.” Criticizing the Administration’s position on the agreements, as have members in both houses, Proxmire said that the safeguard standards of the international Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “may be totally inadequate.”

He declared that “Whenever we attempt to get specifics” from the Administration, “we are told these are matters for negotiation, with the implication that Congress should leave such matters to the Executive.” Proxmire also stressed that 98 nuclear companies, 20 of them American, were unable to obtain contracts on nuclear fuel from the U.S. before the June 30 deadline but Egypt and Israel obtained provisional contracts.

“At a time when we are seeking energy independence, American firms are left hat in hand while Egypt and Israel were promised fuel for reactors not yet approved by Congress,” Proxmire said.

Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D., Wash.), also criticized the Administration, charged IAEA’s safeguards are inadequate and that it lacks the resources to prevent use of the nuclear materials being exported for destructive devices. Agreements must include inspections to make them “rascal proof”, he said.

SLIGHT MOVE TOWARD ACCOMMODATION

Smarting from criticism at the House hearings, Administration witnesses appeared to move slightly towards accommodating Congressional concerns. John Erlwine, General Manager of the Atomic Energy Commission, said “I believe” Egypt would accept an agreement that production of fuel for its reactor would be outside of Egypt. Sidney Sober, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East testified, “We intend to seek to buttress the IAEA safeguards with certain special bilateral provisions,” including processing of nuclear fuel outside of Israel and Egypt.

Erlwine also said that 111 American type reactors that are in operation or formally programmed for construction abroad represent a capital investment of $33 billion.

As in the House hearings thus far, the expressions of concern continue to be directed towards the agreement with Egypt. Israel apparently is not considered a possible danger spot either in the conversion of its fuel or to be vulnerable towards theft of materials by Arab terrorists.

NEXT STORY