by Chris Gallegos
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 26, 2002 -- U.S. Senator Pete Domenici's six-year effort to create more comprehensive American nuclear non-proliferation policies took another step forward today with Senate acceptance of his amendment to improve security at nuclear facilities around the globe.
Domenici's amendment reauthorizes the First Responder program, which he authored in 1996, and introduces new initiatives, such as a $15 million program to improve efforts to control "dirty bomb" threats. Much of the expansion of the international anti-proliferation is aimed, Domenici said, at preventing weapons of mass destruction from entering the hands of terrorist groups and rogue states.
The measure was accepted as part of the FY2003 Defense Authorization Bill. It is largely based on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 2002 introduced in May by Domenici and Senators Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who are primary cosponsors of the amendment.
Domenici, a principal author of the 1996 Nunn-Lugar-Domenici nonproliferation law, has worked to funded much of the 1996 law, and a related 1991 Nunn-Lugar law, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"Despite the successes of the Nunn-Lugar and Nunn-Lugar-Domenici laws, there remain many actions that should be taken to further reduce these threats. This new amendment expands and strengthens many of the programs established earlier, to further reduce threats to global peace," Domenici said. "It addresses one of the most important realizations from September 11-that the forces of terrorism span the globe. It's now clear that our nuclear nonproliferation programs should extend far beyond the states of the former Soviet Union."
Domenici noted in a statement to the Senate, that the legislative initiatives in his amendment closely mirror recommendations issued today in a major National Research Council report titled, "The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism," that presents a number of critical recommendations to address threats of nuclear and radiological terrorism.
The nuclear nonproliferation amendment authorizes the expenditure of $100 million to renew and build on existing programs, and create new cooperative initiatives for the United States and Russia to control, protect and neutralize materials and weapons of mass destruction. It would also renew authorization for the First Responder training program to improve domestic preparedness. (New Mexico Tech in Socorro is a partner in the First Responder program, and Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories are key to U.S. nonproliferation programs.)
The amendment would strengthen programs to improve the safety and security of nuclear facilities and radioactive materials held by countries are willing to enter into cooperative arrangements for threat reduction. It would accelerate and expand existing programs for disposition of fissile materials, including the U.S.-Russian pact to render highly enriched uranium (HEU) into forms unusable for weapons. The bill would also work to foster greater global cooperation in containing fissile materials that could be used as weapons of terror.
In his statement to the Senate, Domenici outlined progress under existing laws and stressed the need to strengthen those programs, including the Nuclear Cities Initiative, the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program, and the Nuclear Materials Protection, Control and Accounting program.
"This amendment expands programs to cooperate with more countries in helping to secure their nuclear facilities and radioactive materials. It recognizes that devices that disperse radioactive materials, so-called 'dirty bombs, can represent a real threat to modern societies. This is one of the key recommendations of the National Research Council," Domenici said.
The amendment was cosponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).