DOE, NRC, and State Are Not Able to Fully Account for U.S. Nuclear Material Located at Foreign Facilities
DOE, NRC, and State are not able to fully account for U.S. nuclear material overseas that is subject to nuclear cooperation agreement terms because the agreements do not stipulate systematic reporting of such information, and there is no U.S. policy to pursue or obtain such information. Section 123 of the AEA, as amended, does not require nuclear cooperation agreements to contain provisions stipulating that partners report information on the amount, status, or location (facility) of special nuclear material subject to the agreement terms. However, U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements generally require that partners report inventory information upon request, although DOE and NRC have not systematically sought such data. We requested from multiple offices at DOE and NRC a current and comprehensive inventory of U.S. nuclear material overseas, to include country, site, or facility, and whether the quantity of material was rated as Category I or Category II material. However, neither agency has provided such an inventory. NMMSS does not contain the data necessary to maintain an inventory of U.S. special nuclear material overseas. DOE, NRC, and State have not pursued annual inventory reconciliations of nuclear material subject to U.S. cooperation agreement terms with all foreign partners that would provide the U.S. government with better information about where such material is held. Furthermore, according to DOE, NRC, and State officials, no U.S. law or policy directs U.S. agencies to obtain information regarding the location and disposition of U.S. nuclear material at foreign facilities.
U.S. Nuclear Cooperation Agreements Generally Require That Partners Report Inventory Information upon Request, but DOE and NRC Have Not Systematically Sought Such Data
Section 123 of the AEA, as amended, does not require nuclear cooperation agreements to contain provisions stipulating that partners report information on the amount, status, or location (facility) of special nuclear material subject to the agreement terms. However, the texts of most U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements contain a provision calling for each partner to maintain a system of material accounting and control and to do so consistent with IAEA safeguards standards or agreements. In addition, we found that all agreements, except three negotiated prior to 1978 and the U.S.-China agreement, contain a provision that the other party shall report, or shall authorize the IAEA to report, inventory information upon request. However, according to DOE and NRC officials, with the exception of the administrative arrangements with five partners, the United States has not requested such information from all partners on an annual or systematic basis.Nonetheless, the AEA requires U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements to include terms that, among other things, obligate partners to obtain U.S. approval for the transfer, retransfer, enrichment and reprocessing, and the storage of U.S.-obligated uranium-233, HEU, or other nuclear materials that have been irradiated. In addition, according to DOE and NRC officials, the United States obtains written assurances from partners in advance of each transfer of U.S. nuclear material that commits them to maintain the transferred nuclear material according to the terms of its nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States. DOE and NRC officials told us these assurances help the United States ensure that partner countries comply with the terms of the nuclear cooperation agreement.
In addition, IAEA, DOE, NRC, and State officials told us that IAEA’s safeguards activities provide a level of assurance that nuclear material is accounted for at partner facilities. The safeguards system, which has been a cornerstone of U.S. efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation, allows IAEA to independently verify that non-nuclear weapons states that signed the NPT are complying with its requirements. Under the safeguards system, IAEA, among other things, inspects facilities and locations containing nuclear material declared by countries to verify its peaceful use. Inspectors from IAEA’s Department of Safeguards verify that the quantities of nuclear material that these non-nuclear weapons states declared to IAEA are not diverted for other uses. IAEA considers such information confidential and does not share it with its member states, including the United States, unless the parties have agreed that IAEA can share the information.
IAEA’s inspectors do not verify nuclear material by country of origin or associated obligation. DOE, State, and IAEA officials told us that, because IAEA does not track the obligation of the material under safeguards, IAEA may notice discrepancies in nuclear material balances through periodic reviews of countries’ shipping records. However, these officials said that IAEA does not have the ability to identify whether and what volume of nuclear material at partner country facilities is U.S.-obligated and therefore subject to the terms of U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements.
DOE and NRC Do Not Have a Current Comprehensive Inventory of U.S. Material Overseas
DOE and NRC do not have a comprehensive, detailed, current inventory of U.S. nuclear material overseas that would enable the United States to identify material subject to U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement terms. We requested from multiple offices at DOE and NRC a current and comprehensive inventory of U.S. nuclear material overseas, to include country, site, or facility, and whether the quantity of material was Category I or Category II. However, the agencies have not provided such a list. DOE officials from the Office of Nonproliferation and International Security told us that they have multiple mechanisms to account for the amount of U.S.-obligated nuclear material at foreign facilities. They stated that they use NMMSS records to obtain information regarding U.S. nuclear material inventories held in other countries. However, NMMSS officials told us that NMMSS was an accurate record of material exports from the United States, but that it should not be used to estimate current inventories. In addition, NMMSS officials stated that DOE’s GTRI program has good data regarding the location of U.S. nuclear material overseas and that this information should be reconciled with NMMSS data.
However, when we requested information regarding the amount of U.S. material at partner facilities, GTRI stated that they could not report on the amount of U.S. nuclear material remaining at facilities unless it was scheduled for GTRI to return. In addition, in February 2011 written comments to us, GTRI stated it was not responsible for acquiring or maintaining inventory information regarding U.S. nuclear material overseas. A long-time contract employee for DOE’s Office of Nonproliferation and International Security stated he has tried to collect information regarding U.S. nuclear material overseas from various sources including a list of countries eligible for GTRI’s fuel return program, NMMSS, and other sources, but it is not possible to reconcile information from the various lists and sources and consequently there is no list of U.S. inventories overseas.
According to public information, the United States has additional measures known as administrative arrangements with five of its trading partners to conduct annual reconciliations of nuclear material amounts. In addition, for all partners, DOE and NRC officials told us that an exchange of diplomatic notes is sent prior to any transfer to ensure that U.S. nuclear material is not diverted for non-peaceful purposes, and which binds the partner to comply with the terms of the nuclear cooperation agreement. However, the measures cited by DOE are not comprehensive or sufficiently detailed to provide the specific location of U.S. nuclear material overseas.