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Senator Cotton (R-AR) Amendment to Undermine Iran Agreement Fails
Council for a Livable World, a Washington, D.C.-based arms control organization, today hailed the withdrawal of Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton’s amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, an attempt to undermine the spirit of the Iran nuclear agreement.
The Cotton amendment would have barred U.S. purchases of Iranian heavy water, a material that can be used in the production of plutonium for a nuclear weapon. Inspired by a recently announced one-time U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) purchase of 32 metric tons of heavy water produced in Iran, the amendment was seen as a “poison pill” meant to undermine the Iran Deal. Under the deal signed in July 2015 between Iran and six international partners, including the United States, Iran must keep its heavy water stockpile below 130 metric tons and is permitted to sell the substance on international markets.
Council Executive Director John Tierney, a former 18-year Member of Congress, commented, “It is in the national security interests of the United States to keep Iran’s heavy water stockpile below the 130 metric ton threshold. Preventing American purchases of Iranian heavy water could allow a country like North Korea to buy the substance for its illicit nuclear weapons program, as even Senator Cotton’s Republican colleagues have pointed out.” *(Note below)
The United States does not produce it’s own heavy water. Much of the heavy water purchased by DOE will be used to enhance scientific research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with the rest being sold for legitimate commercial purposes such as nuclear MRI research and the creation of semi-converters and fiber optic equipment.
*Note: Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, opposed the amendment, saying “It raises the possibility that a country like North Korea might buy Iran’s heavy water and use it for nuclear weapons.”
Founded in 1962 by famed physicist Leo Szilard, Council for a Livable World is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to reducing the danger of nuclear weapons.