NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 1999 (House of Representatives - May 21, 1998)

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Part D amendment No. 11 offered by Mr. Markey:

At the end of title XXXI (page 363, after line 5), insert the following new section:

SEC. 3154. PROHIBITION ON USE OF TRITIUM PRODUCED IN FACILITIES LICENSED UNDER THE ATOMIC ENERGY ACT FOR NUCLEAR EXPLOSIVE PURPOSES.

(A) Prohibition: Section 57(e) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2077(e)) is amended by inserting after `section 11,' the following: `or tritium'.

(b) Conforming Amendment: Section 108 of such Act (42 U.S.C. 2138) is amended by inserting `or tritium' after `special nuclear material' in the second and third sentences each place it appears.

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Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time, and I rise in support of the en bloc amendment, and I am very happy that the committee has agreed to accept the amendments sponsored by the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Graham) and myself for inclusion in the en bloc amendment.

This amendment, quite briefly, continues to make this distinction between nuclear power plants, which are used to generate electricity that have light bulbs and toast made for civilians in their homes, and nuclear power plants or linear accelerators which are used to construct nuclear bombs.

For 50 years in America we have kept these two facilities separate. When people have their lights go on at home, they know they are not making any material that could be used in the construction of a nuclear weapon.

Now, the Congress realized this, and back in 1982, Senator Hart and Senator Simpson were able to pass an amendment which memorialized this. Kept them separate. But there is a little bit of a loophole. They did not mention the word `tritium.' And what the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Graham) and I are seeking to do is add that word, this critical ingredient for nuclear bombs as well.

Otherwise, the TVA, civilian electricity generator for use in homes, will be able to qualify as a nuclear weapons material bomb making factory. And that is not good, especially when we are trying to convince the Indians that they should not use their civilian reactors for nuclear material; the Pakistanis that they should not use their civilian reactors for nuclear materials; that only military facilities should be used.

The facility that we are talking about here is a civilian facility that is overseen by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This is a policy which has served America well for 50 years. I urge the committee to adopt the en bloc amendment.

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Cramer).

Mr. CRAMER. Mr. Chairman, I thank the ranking member for yielding me this time.

I rise reluctantly in opposition to the en bloc amendments. Our colleague from Massachusetts just spoke about the tritium issue. The Markey-Graham amendment is a dangerous amendment, and I hope my colleagues will listen to me.

The issue is tritium. We will be interrupting, if we adopt this amendment in the en bloc amendments, we will be interrupting an already mandated process by DOE to evaluate how we produce tritium.

This country must have tritium for bombs. But tritium is not a substance that we are not already seeing commercial use of. It is used on airport runways. It is used in exit signs. There have been opportunities before for us to use this very important substance.

Back in 1988, we decided we had enough tritium. In 1993, we decided that we needed more tritium; that we needed to advance the production of it. So we mandated that DOE begin a process of evaluating how we would do that. If we adopt this amendment today, we are eliminating one of the two options for producing tritium that are under consideration by DOE.

So the Members need to be aware this is a very controversial amendment. This is a very controversial process that we will be getting into. And if Members are confused, they should vote against the en bloc amendments in order to allow DOE and the administration to complete a process that we started.

So please pay attention to this amendment. It should not be in the en bloc amendments. There has been no hearing over this particular issue at all, and here we are on the floor, within a matter of a few minutes that we can squeeze out, trying to decide an issue that is extremely important to this country.

Please vote against the en bloc amendments because of the Markey-Graham amendment.

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Mr. SPENCE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Wamp).

(Mr. WAMP asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. WAMP. Mr. Chairman, I am coming back to this tritium issue, the Markey amendment. We need to focus on this as part of this en bloc amendment.

Tritium is a gas. It is necessary to maintain our nuclear weapons capability in the United States of America. Just look around the world and we know that we need to do that. So we have to produce a tritium source again by a date certain. The Department of Energy was given a mandate, as the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Cramer) said, by Congress to pursue these legitimate options. And we must produce tritium.

Two options exist. One is an accelerator-based project, which would be built in the State of South Carolina, at an estimated cost of more than $4 billion with a pretty high annual operation cost. The accelerator has not been built, so the technology is really unproven and untested.

The other option, which has been tested, is to use a commercial reactor. TVA, the Tennessee Valley Authority, which has a defense mission in its charter, was given the Department of Energy project to test tritium. It has been enormously successful. We have tested the production of tritium in a commercial reactor. It is safe and reliable, and the operational costs are lower. And the initial capital cost, the total cost, is $2 1/2 billion less than the accelerator.

But the Markey amendment, working with the leadership of this committee, is eliminating the cheaper option completely. The Senate will not revive it, I am afraid. This may be the last chance to save the taxpayers $2 1/2 billion and do the right thing.

The National Taxpayers Union is against it. Citizens Against Government Waste is against it. The gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Markey) speaks eloquently. But, frankly, there is fear tactics being implemented about the safety of testing tritium or producing tritium at a commercial reactor.

This is a political power play that is going to cost the American taxpayers big time over time. This is arbitrary. Please vote and reluctantly vote against the en bloc amendment.

Mr. SPENCE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Graham).

Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. Chairman, now the rest of the story about tritium.

The good news is that when we are talking about tritium, something we ought to be talking about, my good friend the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Wamp) is absolutely right, it is an essential component to keep a nuclear deterrent force operational.

I speak about it from representing a district that has made tritium for the United States military for about 50 years. There is parochial interests involved. If they do not have a dog in this tritium, they make a decision they think is good for the country. But let me point a couple things out to my colleagues.

The reactor they are talking about that TVA owns is 85 percent complete. They do not have the money to complete it. Nobody will buy it, and they are trying to dump it on the Department of Energy. Let me tell my colleagues what would be so dangerous to let this happen.

The gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Markey) is right. Seldom do we agree on anything. And this is an historic agreement in Congress when the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Graham) and the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Markey) can agree on something.

But if we allow a commercial reactor to make a nuclear weapons product, we are taking 50 years of American public policy and turning it on its head at a time the world is in the most danger it has been in recent times. And what are we going to tell the Indians when they use their commercial power plants to make nuclear weapons? `Do not do that like us'? That is not what we want to tell them.

Let us talk about money. I will take my position as a fiscal conservative against anybody in this body. The $4 billion price tag we hear about the accelerator, the other way of making tritium, is too much. $4 billion is too much to spend.

A modular design is being had right now to reduce the cost of the accelerator to $2.6 billion. If they use the TVA numbers to complete this reactor, which is 85 percent complete, they say $2 1/2 billion. A utility that looked at buying the thing said it cost over $4 billion to complete.

If they go down this road, they will be in court forever. Because every group in this country will sue them to keep them from using a commercial reactor to make a military product, and they ought to sue them. It will never happen. Do not take a bad reactor off TVA's hands and mess up American military policy.

Mr. SPENCE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Aderholt).

Mr. ADERHOLT. Mr. Chairman, tritium production is necessary for our national defense; and it is certainly reasonable to select the safest, most economical source of production.

The Markey amendment which we have discussed today would force the Department of Energy to select an unproven accelerator option that is three times the cost of proven commercial lot water reactor technology.

The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste opposes the Markey amendment, and with good reason. Should the accelerator option not perform well or suffer delays in development, the government could be forced to purchase a light-water reactor in addition to the accelerator in order not to hamper our national security.

We can safely spend $1.8 to $2 billion on a commercial light-water reactor or risk $4 billion to $6 billion on the accelerator option. Unless the Markey amendment is removed, I must vote against the en bloc amendments and strongly encourage my colleagues to do the same.

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