Democratic Senators Urge President Obama to Keep Nuclear Materials Out of the Hands of Terrorists and Rogue Nations

New Letter Asks the President to Prioritize Reducing Global Nuclear Weapons Threats and Proliferation Risks During the Remainder of His Term

March 28, 2016

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and five other Democratic senators called for President Obama to redouble efforts to reduce global nuclear weapons threats and proliferations risks. Ahead of this week’s Nuclear Security Summit to be held in Washington, D.C., Sens. Cantwell, Al Franken (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) provided President Obama with a list of objectives for consideration at the summit.

In a letter to President Obama released today, the Democratic senators urge continued support for keeping vulnerable nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists and rogue nations. “Eliminating illicit nuclear technology and materials transfers must remain a top priority,” they write.

The senators support nonproliferation efforts already taken, such as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the P5+1 and Iran, noting that the agreement “has increased regional and global stability while providing a potential framework for future agreements.” In fact, several provisions of the JCPOA could be applied for a longer period of time in Iran, if pursued on a regional and global basis.

For example, in the JCPOA, Iran agreed to not enrich uranium beyond 3.67 percent for at least 15 years. Iran has indicated a willingness to extend that restriction beyond 15 years, if other countries in the region abide by a similar restriction. Sen. Cantwell and the others urge President Obama to advocate for a region-wide ban on the production of highly-enriched uranium and plutonium.

In the letter, the senators call for a region-wide moratorium on research, development and flight-testing of medium-range and long-range ballistic missiles or cruise missiles. They urge the United States to use its economic and political leverage to discourage any additional nations from acquiring uranium enrichment materials or technology.

The Democratic senators also request increased resources for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who is responsible for promoting the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies. The IAEA has developed a successful safeguards system to ensure that civil uranium, plutonium and associated plants are used for peaceful purposes globally. In addition, the senators praise the administration’s renewed focus on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and welcomed further engagement with the administration on the treaty.  

Lastly, the six senators propose that the United States, in tandem with Russia, take parallel steps to reduce each side’s deployed strategic arsenals to 1,000 warheads and 500 delivery vehicles by 2021. “This would provide important momentum to renew nuclear arms talks ahead of the expiration of New START,” they write.

Download a PDF of the letter to President Obama here.