Washington (November 30, 2021) – After the Biden administration announced a new trilateral security partnership between the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia (AUKUS) this September, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Representatives Don Beyer (VA-08) and John Garamendi (CA-03), co-chairs of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group, today led colleagues in a letter to President Joe Biden encouraging his administration to uphold the strongest nuclear safeguards and the United States’ commitment to nonproliferation as the three nations move forward in negotiating the details of the partnership. The goal of the new AUKUS partnership is a deal to deliver a nuclear-powered submarine fleet to Australia within the next ten years, setting Australia up to be the first non-nuclear state to acquire nuclear submarine technology.
“As your Administration moves forward with developing a roadmap for this deal over the next 18 months, we encourage you to consider how the implementation of this agreement will impact the United States’ ability to strengthen and reinforce our commitment to nonproliferation,” wrote the lawmakers. “As members of Congress with a strong commitment to both the U.S.-Australia bilateral relationship, as well as to nuclear non-proliferation, we believe it is of the utmost importance that this deal is implemented carefully and with the ramifications on the nuclear non-proliferation regime in mind.”
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
Joining the co-chairs in signing the letter are Representatives Bill Foster (IL-11), Mark Pocan (WI-02), and Dina Titus (NV-03).
The lawmakers asked the Biden administration to respond to questions that include:
- Will the AUKUS partners seriously assess the possibility of fueling the submarines delivered to Australia with low enriched uranium?
- When will the Administration submit a revised 123 Agreement with Australia for Congressional Review given the U.S.-Australia Civilian Nuclear Cooperation (123) Agreement, extended until 2040, does not permit transfer of materials for “military nuclear propulsion” or transfers of highly enriched uranium above 20%?
- Will the AUKUS nations commit to allowing full IAEA safeguards on fuel until it is inserted into the reactor and the reactor is sealed? Will the AUKUS nations also allow full safeguards on irradiated naval fuel as soon as it is removed from a reactor and until its transfer to a nuclear weapons state?
- What are the objective criteria that the Administration believes should be met for non-nuclear weapon states to have unsafeguarded naval reactors?
In July, the members of the Nuclear Weapons Arms Control Working Group led 18 of their colleagues in calling on President Biden to actively guide the formation of the Department of Defense-led Nuclear Posture Review in order to ensure that the policy review reflects his historic leadership in reducing nuclear weapons risks.
Earlier this month, the Working Group wrote to President Joe Biden urging him to make nuclear risk reduction measures with China a top priority in his virtual summit with Xi Jinping, leader of the People’s Republic of China. According to National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, the two leaders agreed to “look to begin to carry forward discussion on strategic stability” as an outcome of that summit.