NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 1999 (Senate - June 25, 1998)

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AMENDMENT NO. 2907

(PURPOSE: TO REQUIRE THE SECRETARY OF ENERGY TO SELECT THE TECHNOLOGY TO BE USED FOR TRITIUM PRODUCTION BY DECEMBER 31, 1998)

On page 398, between lines 9 and 10, insert the following:

SEC. 3144. DEADLINE FOR SELECTION OF TECHNOLOGY FOR TRITIUM PRODUCTION.
(a) Deadline: The Secretary of Energy shall select a technology for the production of tritium not later than December 31, 1998.
(b) Options Available for Selection: Notwithstanding any provision of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2011 et seq.), after the completion of the Department of Energy's evaluation of their Interagency Review on the production of Tritium, the Secretary shall make the selection for tritium production consistent with the laws, regulations and procedures of the Department of Energy as stated in subsection (a).

Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I would like to thank the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Thurmond, for accepting my amendment which ensures the dual track strategy the Department of Energy (DOE) is currently pursuing for tritium production will remain in place. Acceptance of this amendment ensures the Secretary of Energy will have the flexibility to make the best decision based on a careful review of the cost, technical, schedule and policy issues associated with each of the tritium production options.

In May, during the House National Security Committee's deliberation of the FY '99 Department of Defense (DOD) re-authorization bill, an amendment offered by Congressmen Markey and Graham was accepted without a roll call vote. Their amendment (Markey/Graham amendment) would preclude the Secretary of Energy from selecting a commercial light water reactor for the production of tritium. The Markey/Graham amendment, if passed into law, would force the Secretary of Energy to select the Accelerator Production of Tritium (APT) by eliminating the option to produce tritium using a Commercial Light Water Reactor (CLWR). The APT is the only other option currently available to the Department of Energy. The results of this action would, in my opinion, require the Secretary to select the highest risk and most expensive option to produce tritium--a decision which could saddle the taxpayers with a $14.5 billion debt. To put this in context, $14.5 billion is more money than the states of Alabama, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Virginia, Rhode Island, Idaho, Oklahoma, Mississippi and New Mexico combined will receive during the next five years under the recently passed TEA21 transportation bill.

The White House, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Defense and the Citizens Against Government Waste have all written letters in opposition to the Markey/Graham amendment in the House-passed bill, which would prevent the Department of Energy from making the best decision on tritium production.

In a Statement of Administration Policy to House National Security Committee dated May 20th, 1998, the Administration voiced its concern over the amendment to the House DoD re-authorization bill and stated:

`The Administration strongly opposes . . . amendments . . . to prohibit the use of commercial light water reactors for the production of tritium; by eliminating the least costly, most technically mature option under consideration by DOE. Tritium production in commercial reactors is not inconsistent with U.S. non-proliferation policy'.

Furthermore, in a letter dated June 23rd, 1998, the Secretary of Energy restated the Administration's position:

`The Administration strongly opposes this amendment and any amendment that prejudges departmental decision making within the dual track strategy. A careful and deliberate review of cost, technical, schedule, and policy issues associated with each option is essential to meet our security needs most economically and reliably'.

And finally, in a letter provided to me June 25th, 1998, the Secretary of Defense stated:

`DoD opposes the amendments for three reasons. First, if the amendments were to become law, DOE would require an immediate additional investment of nearly $250 million to accelerate the development of APT. The long term impacts of the amendment are far more significant. The life cycle cost of APT could be as high as $8.8 billion. The life cycle cost of the Reactor option could be as low as $1.6 billion. Thus, the amendments could mandate an unfunded liability of up to $7.6 billion . . . Second, the amendments would likely increase the cost of the DOD Stockpile Stewardship Program.

Finally, this amendment seems to be predicated on the assumption that the use of commercial reactors is inconsistent with the US non proliferation policy. It is not. The DOE will forward shortly a completed interagency report that concludes the non proliferation policy issues associated with the use of a reactor are manageable and that the DOE should continue to pursue the reactor option as a viable source for future tritium production. . .Therefore, I urge you to oppose amendments which would prohibit the Reactor production of tritium from being considered as an option. Passage of any such amendment would place the Defense Authorization bill at risk'.

Mr. President, I would ask unanimous consent that all three letters be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET,
Washington, D.C., May 20, 1998.

Statement of Administration Policy

H.R. 3616--NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 1999 (SPENCE (R) SC AND SKELTON (D) MO)

The Administration supports prompt congressional consideration of its national defense authorization legislative proposal for FY 1999. As reported by the Committee on National Security, however, H.R. 3616 raises serious budget and policy concerns which must be addressed satisfactorily. The Administration also has particular concerns, addressed below, about a number of amendments which have been ruled in order for floor consideration.

Reduction of Department of Energy (DOE) Funds

The Administration strongly objects to the net reduction of $401 million from DOE's defense activities, particularly the $358 million cut from weapons activities and the earmarking of $60 million from the Stockpile Stewardship account for DOD's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. A significant portion of the Stockpile Stewardship reduction results from $341 million taken from prior year balances which are not available. This will force real reductions in critical programs needed to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of America's nuclear deterrent.

In addition, the Administration opposes the $230 million reduction in the Environmental Management Privatization account that cuts funds which are needed to demonstrate to the financial investment community the Administration's commitment to the privatization approach, and which are required to complete key nuclear waste disposal facilities. The bill would also delay the decision to select a primary source for tritium until the results of tests at the Watts Bar nuclear station are determined. This would delay the selection decision by over one year, increase the costs of the program, and prevent the Department from meeting its 2005 deadline for achieving a tritium production capability. The Administration also opposes the premature sun-setting of the Worker and Community Transition Program, which has facilitated the orderly reduction of 43,000 contractor employees at DOE sites since 1992.

Program Funding

H.R. 3616 would reduce funding for basic and applied research by over $1 billion in FY 1999. This research provides the fundamental knowledge and technical know-how required to develop future defense systems. The failure to provide adequate funding for this research will ultimately result in the inability to upgrade systems at an adequate pace. The Administration strongly urges the House to authorize the Administration's full $4.1 billion request for these programs.

Conversely, the bill adds a net total of $250 million for procurement and $450 million for constructions programs. Some of these increases are for programs that, due to higher priority military requirements, are not in the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). This includes,
for example, $398 million for seven additional C-130J airlift aircraft, and $300 million for other unrequested items for the National Guard and Reserve. These increases for lower priority weapons modernization and military construction programs would be at the expense of higher priority defense programs.

The Administration appreciates the bill's emphasis on preserving military readiness through strong funding for maintenance and spare parts. Force readiness could be threatened, however, by the bill's reductions to other O&M programs. The President's request is very tightly constructed within the discretionary caps agreed to the bipartisan budget agreement. Any adjustments must be carefully evaluated to ensure that sufficient funding is available for DoD operations and support programs. The Administration will work with the Congress to reexamine any adjustments to the O&M programs prior to final congressional action on the bill.

In particular, the Administration opposes the bill's $500 million funding reduction for defense contractual services, which are an integral part of DOD functions and are essential to critical military objectives. This reduction would have a direct adverse impact on operational readiness and modernization. The prohibitions and limitations on: (1) accounting procedures for contractual services and (2) the performance of core logistics capabilities are also objectionable. In addition, the bill's requirement for a comprehensive annual review of Defense service contracts would be costly and divert personnel from higher priority areas.

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Base Realignment and Closure

The Administration is disappointed that the bill does not adopt the Defense proposal to authorize two additional rounds of base closure and realignment in 2001 and 2005. Defense's base infrastructure is far too large for its military forces and must be reduced if the Department is to obtain adequate appropriations for readiness and modernization requirements during the next decade.

Gender Integrated Training

The Administration strongly opposes any legislatively mandated changes for initial entry training within the military services.

The Federal Advisory Committee on Gender Integrated Training and Related Issues made several recommendations on training that have been reviewed by the Secretary of Defense and each of the services. In addition to the Committee's recommendations, the Secretary directed the services to take additional action in the areas of training leadership, training rigor, and recruit billeting. The services have each taken a number of steps in support of the Committee's recommendations and Secretary's additional direction. The implementation of future initiatives will also be monitored. All actions are geared toward providing new recruits with the best training possible in a safe and secure environment. In order to achieve this goal, each service must be allowed to tailor its basic training as needed to prepare recruits for their specific service's missions. Legislation at this time would be counter productive to meeting this goal.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

H.R. 3616 does not include authorities requested to allow a more rapid response to threats to U.S. forces, and permit Defense to support interagency efforts to combat terrorism. The bill also defers action on authorizing the National Guard and Reserves to assist other Federal, state, and local authorities in responding to domestic terrorist incidents involving weapons of mass destruction. These authorities are critical to improving the Nation's ability to deter and combat terrorism. The Administration strongly urges prompt congressional enactment of these important authorities.

Bosnia Expenditure Cap

The Administration opposes section 1201 which would impose an expenditure limitation on funds for U.S. participation in Bosnia peacekeeping operations. It is imperative that the Administration retain the flexibility necessary to meet exigent circumstances.

Chemical Weapons Convention

The Administration urges the House to include the requested authorization of appropriations for the DOD to reimburse the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for costs incurred in inspecting DOD sites and facilities. These funds are necessary to fulfill the requirements of the recently ratified Chemical Weapons Convention.

Management Issues

A number of provisions in H.R. 3616 would undermine the Administration's efforts to improve governmental operations. For example, the bill would terminate a DOD `household goods moving services' pilot program that was designed to adopt corporate business practices and foster competition. The bill would replace this DOD pilot with an approach that was proposed by the industry that perpetuates the current inefficient system.

The Administration objects to section 337 which would require DOD to perform depot-level maintenance and repair of the C-17 at Government-owned, Government-operated facilities. This section also states that the C-17 Flexible Sustainment contract does not meet the requirements of law. Although the language is specific to the C-17 support contract, it has far reaching implications for many DOD weapon systems. The bill sets a precedent for bypassing the DOD risk assessment and core determination process, and directing that weapon systems be supported in public depots without regard to cost or readiness. The resulting investments would have a significant adverse affect on DOD's long term plans for funding.

Section 336 of the bill would require complicated and cumbersome tests for determining what qualifies as a commercial item under 10 U.S.C. 2464, and would require application of those tests to determine whether or not a V-22 engine component or system is a `commercial item' that, by definition, should be procured with simplified, streamlined procurement procedures. Whether intended or not, the provision would duplicate a capability that already exists commercially.

Section 331 of the bill would expand current requirements that the Secretary report to Congress before outsourcing any commercial or industrial type function currently accomplished in-house. This would be counterproductive to efficient and effective government, and should be deleted. These additional requirements would only slow the process, discourage contractors from taking over activities that DOD no longer needs to perform in-house, and waste money that should be used to modernize DOD weapons systems.

Military Pay Raise

H.R. 3616 contains a minimum of a 3.6 percent increase in basic pay for military members, an increase that is 0.5 percent higher than the amount requested. At this time, the Administration is reviewing the implications of a higher pay raise, and will work with Congress to provide a fair pay raise that does not force unacceptable reductions in other high priority Defense programs.

Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR)

The Administration generally supports the bill's authorizations for the Cooperative Threat
Reduction Program and urges full funding of the FY 1999 request for CTR. The Administration opposes, however, language that would restrict the use of CTR funds for chemical weapons destruction facility construction. The restriction would preclude any construction until FY 2000, thereby imposing a minimum delay of one year in the current project schedule.

The Administration, as it continues to review H.R. 3616, may identify other issues, and will work with the Congress to develop a more acceptable bill.

Unacceptable Amendments

In addition, the Administration strongly opposes a number of seriously problematic amendments that may be offered, including:

Any amendment that would further restrict or prohibit licensing of commercial satellite launches by China. Transfer to China or Chinese entities of technology, data, or defense services relevant to ballistic missiles or warhead delivery is controlled under the Arms Export Control Act. Existing procedures, including the bilateral Satellite Technology Safeguards Agreement (negotiated under the Bush Administration and signed in February 1993) explicitly prohibit transfer of ballistic missile technology to China.

Any amendment to require licenses for nuclear exports and retransfers to non-OECD countries to be reported to Congress 30 days before issuance. Such a requirement is unnecessary as applications for licenses to export controlled nuclear technology and items are already reported to the public immediately upon fling with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The licensing process provides for a unique degree of transparency, including public intervention. To require such a notification before licenses are issued to non-OECD countries would impose significant delays to many commercial contracts, reducing U.S. commercial competitiveness, and reducing U.S. influence with countries of great importance to our nuclear non-proliferation efforts.

The amendment which would cap expenditures for NATO enlargement at $2 billion or 10 percent of the total cost. At the Madrid summit Allied heads of State and government agreed that the costs of NATO enlargement would be reasonable and they would be met in accordance with current Alliance procedures. After careful study, NATO agreed that the costs of enlargement to the Alliance common budgets for the first 10 years would be $1.5 billion. Using the current shares of NATO common budget that would mean the costs to the U.S. during that period would be approximately $400 million. However, a reduction to 10 percent of enlargement costs as called for in the amendment is neither reasonable nor consistent with the Madrid communique agreed by all Allied heads of state and government.

Prohibit the use of commercial light water reactors for the production of tritium; eliminating the least costly, most technically mature opinion under consideration by DOE. Tritium production in commercial reactors is not inconsistent with U.S. nonproliferation policy. There have been several instances of cooperation between U.S. military and civilian nuclear programs, including dual use of uranium enrichment facilities and commercial sale of electricity originating from a weapons material production reactor.

The inclusion of such amendments in the bill presented to the President would be unacceptable.

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The Secretary of Energy
Washington, DC, June 23, 1998.

Hon. Jeff Sessions,
U.S. Senate, Washington, DC

Dear Senator Sessions: The Department of Energy must establish a new source of tritium to maintain the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. Currently, the Department is pursuing a dual-track strategy for tritium production, which calls for the development of two technology options: use of an existing commercial light water reactor or the construction of a linear accelerator for the production of tritium. The Department has pursued this strategy for more than two years under the direction of the Congress and with the approval of the Department of Defense through the Nuclear Weapons Council. We remain on schedule to select a new tritium production source by December 31, 1998, consistent with existing law.

Last month an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 1999 (H.R. 3616) was adopted that would prohibit the Department's ability to pursue the Commercial Light Water Reactor option of the dual track strategy. The Administration strongly opposes this amendment and any amendment that prejudges departmental decision making within the dual track strategy. A careful and deliberate review of the cost, technical, schedule, and policy issues associated with each option is essential to meet our security needs most economically and reliably.

The amendment to prohibit the Department's use of a commercial light water reactor for tritium production was predicated on an assumption that the use of such reactors to produce tritium is inconsistent with U.S. proliferation policy. The Department will forward shortly a completed interagency review that concludes that the nonproliferation policy issues associated with the use of a commercial light water reactor are manageable and that the Department should continue to pursue the reactor option as a viable source for future tritium production. This Administration conclusion was reached after an extensive and interactive review process involving a wide range of Executive Branch agencies.

I appreciate your consideration of our views and concerns regarding this issue. If you have any questions, please call me or have your staff contact Mr. John C. Angell, Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, at (202) 586-5450.

Sincerely,

Federico Pen˙AE6a

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The Secretary of Defense,
Washington, DC, June 25, 1998.

Hon. Strom Thurmond,
U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.

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Dear Mr. Chairman: I am writing to express the opinion of the Department of Defense on proposed amendments to the Fiscal Year 1999 Defense Authorization bill that prohibit commercial light water reactors from producing tritium for military purposes.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is pursuing a dual-track program to produce tritium. One method is to use a commercial light water reactor (CLWR) to irradiate rods from which tritium could be extracted at a DOE facility--in effect, buying irradiation services. The other approach is to build an accelerator to produce tritium (APT). DOE will decide on a primary method by the end of this calendar year. The proposed amendments would effectively foreclose the CLWR option.

DoD opposes the amendments for three reasons. First, if the amendments become law, DOE would require an immediate additional investment of nearly $250M to accelerate development of APT. The long term impacts of the amendments are far more significant. The life cycle cost of APT could be as high as $8.8B. The life cycle cost of the CLWR program could be as low as $1.2B. Thus, the amendments could mandate an unfunded liability of up to $7.6B. Second, the amendments would likely increase the cost of the DOE stockpile stewardship program (SSP). Finally, this amendment appears to be predicated on an assumption that the use of commercial reactors for tritium production is inconsistent with the US nonproliferation policy. It is not. The DOE will forward shortly a completed interagency report that concludes that the nonproliferation policy issues associated with the use of a commercial light water reactor are manageable and that the DOE should continue to pursue the reactor option as a viable source for future tritium production. The DoD fully endorses this position.

In conclusion, DOE has a dual-track program to develop an assured supply of tritium. Until DOE reaches its decision later this year, the wisest choice is to leave our options open. Therefore, I urge you to oppose the amendments that would prohibit CLWR from being considered as an option. Passage of any such amendment would place the Defense Authorization bill at risk.

Respectfully,

Bill Cohen.

Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I further ask unanimous consent that a letter sent to me by the Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), along with a June 25th article from the Washington Times on tritium both be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
COUNCIL FOR

Citizens Against Government Waste,
Washington, DC, June 23, 1998.

Hon. Jeff Sessions,
U.S. Senate, Russell Office Building, Washington, DC.

Dear Senator Sessions: On behalf of America's taxpayers, and the 600,000 members of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW), we are pleased to endorse your amendment to the FY 1999 National Defense Authorization Act, which ensures that the government procures tritium in the most cost-efficient method.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is responding to Defense Department needs for tritium by carefully considering two options recommended by The Weapons Council: use of a nearly complete commercial light water reactor at Bellefonte in Alabama; or construction of a large new accelerator at the Savannah River federal site in South Carolina. While we are not qualified to comment on dependability, technology, and non-proliferation policy issues concerning these two options, CCAGW feels compelled to point out the obvious cost advantages of the light water reactor option. By any measurement, use of a commercial reactor is the lower cost tritium production option. This option should not be legislatively excluded as provided in the House-passed Markey amendment.

Every budget estimate confirms that construction and operation of an accelerator costs significantly more than the commercial reactor. DOE estimates that the seven-year startup costs for the accelerator will be $3.9 billion with $120 million in annual operating costs. CBO's cost estimate for the accelerator is $6.72 billion. These cost estimates reflect only a modest level of accuracy since they are based on a preliminary conceptual design. Any cost overruns would be borne by the taxpayers. Recent proposals for modular construction of the accelerator will still cost at least $2.6 billion, and these proposals fail to include substantial engineering design and safety expenses.

In contrast, the Bellefonte reactor option will cost only $1.9 billion to complete construction and start producing tritium in five years. Unlike the accelerator, the commercial reactor will generate about $100 million annually in revenues for the Treasury from the production and sale of electricity. The Bellefonte cost estimate is a fixed price that has been certified by several independent reviews as having a very high-level of accuracy. The reactor owner would pay any cost overruns.

From a common sense perspective, the commercial reactor option has to be a better deal for the taxpayer. The Bellefonte reactor is already 90 percent complete whereas ground has not even been broken for construction of the accelerator which is still undergoing conceptual design. Finishing a nearly-complete facility obviously must cost less than designing and building a new facility.

No matter how you compare it, the commercial reactor option is more cost-effective, Construction of a new accelerator will be anywhere from 70 percent to almost 300 percent more expensive than the guaranteed fixed price of a commercial reactor. Moreover, the commercial reactor will generate revenues every year for the Treasury while the accelerator will require annual appropriations to operate.

Given the obviously significant cost advantages, the commercial reactor should not be excluded as an option as proposed by the House. We applaude you placing politics aside and putting the interest of the taxpayers first. We offer our full assistance in this effort.

Sincerely,

Council Nedd II,
Director of Government Affairs.

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From the Washington Times, June 25, 1998

[FROM THE WASHINGTON TIMES, JUNE 25, 1998]

Nuclear Material Causes Senate Spat

(BY SEAN SCULLY)

An obscure House amendment to the Defense Department budget is sparking an interstate battle in the Senate--a fight that could cost U.S. taxpayers an extra $4 billion.

Without having a debate or taking a recorded vote, the House passed an amendment on May 21 to prohibit commercial nuclear reactors from producing tritium, a radioactive substance used to increase the effectiveness of nuclear weapons. As a result, the Energy and Defense departments must abandon a $2 billion plan to produce tritium in an Alabama reactor in favor of building a new production facility in South Carolina, which could cost up to $6.7 billion.

`I think I am morally bound to do everything I can to stop this colossal error that may be in the making,' said Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and leader of the effort to block a similar amendment in the Senate.

But backers of the amendment say there is far more at stake than cost.

The United States has long drawn a sharp line between military and civilian nuclear programs, backers say, and producing tritium at a commercial power plant would blur that line.

`It takes 50 years of policy and turns it on its head. . . . This is a major change of policy that has ripple effects beyond comprehension,' said Rep. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and cosponsor of the House amendment.

If the United States begins using a civilian reactor for military purpose, even for the relatively benign tritium, the administration will have a more difficult time convincing nations such as North Korea and India not to use their reactors to make bomb material, supporters said.

`It's just not smart, it's not the right thing to do,' especially in light of the recent nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, said Maury Lane, spokesman for Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat.

The Alabama faction disagrees. Trituim, they say, is not part of non-proliferation treaties and is widely produced in civilian reactors worldwide, although not in the United States.

The real issue is cost, Mr. Sessions said.

In May 1997, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that buying an existing reactor, or completing a new one, would cost about $1.9 billion. The Alabama reactor, owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority, is about 85 percent complete. The TVA promises to give the Energy Department 60 percent of the profits from selling electricity produced by the plant--as much as $100 million per year--which could offset much of the cost of building and operating the reactor.

The CBO estimated, meanwhile, that the South Carolina plant, known as an accelerator, would cost $6.7 billion. And, while the technology of accelerators is well understood, it has never been used to create tritium on this scale before.

`We simply cannot afford to spend that much extra money in the defense budget, which is extraordinarily tight,' Mr. Sessions said.

The South Carolina side, however, said the CBO numbers are based on outdated data. Mr. Graham said the current accelerator plan is much smaller, costing about $2 billion.

`The costs are--at best--a wash,' he said.

But at the root of the dispute may be home-district politics, a fact that partisans on both sides admit. The CBO estimates that almost 400 jobs are at stake in South Carolina and as many as 800 in Alabama.

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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, under current law, the Department of Energy has been going forward with a dual track process to decide on the technology selection of tritium. DOE is to choose the best option to produce tritium based on cost and merit. The House-passed Markey/Graham amendment, eliminates DOE's decision-making authority and would put the national defense at risk by relying on an unproven technology. The Markey/Graham amendment is fiscally irresponsible and would prevent the Secretary from making a merit-based decision.

Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen which is used in all nuclear weapons of the United States. It has a relatively short half life of 12.3 years and must be replaced periodically as long our nation's defense relies on nuclear deterrence.

In 1993, Congress required the Secretary of Energy to submit a report to Congress with a schedule to produce tritium to meet our defense needs. Later that year, the Secretary submitted a report indicating that under START II, tritium production would need to resume by 2009. However, since the START II treaty has not been ratified, as is now the case, the DOE has stated tritium production needs to begin by 2005.

On December 6th, 1995 the Department of Energy issued a Record of Decision to pursue a dual-track approach to produce tritium. This process was recommended by the President's Nuclear Weapons Council. The first option is to use the services of a reactor to produce tritium. The second option is to design, build and test a particle accelerator at Savannah River to drive tritium producing nuclear reactions. Both options would be required to produce tritium by the 2009 deadline, but only the reactor option could meet the 2005 deadline. The DOE is scheduled to announce its choice for tritium production by the end of 1998.

The Department of Energy needs to pursue the dual-track option for the production of tritium. The Markey/Graham amendment prevents the DOE from making their decision, and ties the Secretary of Energy's hands, throwing competition out the window and saddling the American taxpayer with a huge $16.7 billion dollar debt.

Mr. President, the House-passed Markey/Graham amendment to the Department of Defense re-authorization bill sole sources the Secretary of Energy's options for tritium production and forces the Secretary to select the least reliable, highest cost option--APT. Even the DOE's Accelerator Production of Tritium program managers suggest the accelerator may not be able to produce enough tritium to fulfill our defense needs according to a June 8th, 1998 DOE letter in response to my technical questions regarding the accelerator program.

The CLWR option to produce tritium is a proven technology which allows the US to maintain its nuclear preparedness. It uses safe, reliable technology at no net cost to the DOE. In fact, the reactor option to produce tritium could actually net the Federal Government a $2.4 billion profit over the forty year life of the program.

In contrast, the Accelerator needed for APT is estimated to cost $5.4 billion just to complete. There is no mechanism to ever recapture these costs. In addition, an Accelerator, of the size needed to fulfill our defense needs, would require a tremendous amount of electricity to operate. The annual operational costs of the Accelerator are estimated to be between $120 - $180 million per year. Using the latest inflationary factors developed by Office of Management and Budget of 2.2% and the $180 million annual operating cost estimate put forth in the May, 1997 Congressional Budget Office report titled Preserving the Nuclear Stockpile Under a Comprehensive Test Ban, the life-cycle operating costs for the Accelerator Production of Tritium would be a staggering $11.356 billion over forty years. In total, the operations and maintenance costs, coupled with the cost to complete construction of APT could top $16.756 billion.

The Commercial Light Water Reactor option to produce tritium will cost only $1.9 billion--an investment which will be paid back and generate additional revenue to the Treasury in excess of $2.4 billion over the forty year life of the reactor. It would provide the government with a free supply of tritium and generate revenue through the generation and sale of electrical power.

The APT will require 2,600,000 megawatts-hours of power each year to operate. This is the equivalent of the electricity requirements of a medium size city like Huntsville and Decatur, Alabama. The power required to operate the APT will result in increased emissions of sulfur, carbon, particulate matter and ozone creating gases and serve to work against our efforts to clean the environment.

According to data collected by the Edison Electric Institute, even today's cleanest fossil fuel powered electric plants will emit between 4 million and 9 million tons of carbon; 17,000 and 42,000 tons of Sulfur Dioxide (major contributor to acid rain); and between 870 and 7,100 tons of Nitrous Oxide (major ozone contributor) per year just to generate the same amount of power as the emissions free reactor option to produce tritium. Clearly, the reactor option is the preferred choice for the environment.

To maintain our country's nuclear preparedness under the only signed and enforceable treaty, START I, the Department of Defense needs a production capacity of at least 3 kilograms of tritium per year by 2005. The cost estimates on the APT provided by the Department of Energy, at my request, suggest the accelerator, if its experimental technology were to work without failure or shutdown, may only be able to produce 1.5 to 2.0 kilograms of tritium per year. This is not enough to maintain our nuclear arsenal.

The earliest the APT will be able to produce tritium is 2007 which could cause the Department of Defense to dip into our Tritium Reserve Stockpile to maintain our readiness. The Reactor option can produce tritium using safe, reliable, certified technology by 2003.

Mr. President, can we afford to risk our national security on this unproven APT technology for our nuclear arsenal's tritium needs by eliminating a safe and reliable reactor technology so casually?

In closing, Mr. President, my amendment will ensure the Secretary of Energy retains the ability to carefully review each of these options and select the one which will best serve the tritium needs of our nation's nuclear arsenal.

I urge my colleagues being appointed to the conference committee on the DOD re-authorization bill, to support my amendment, which preserves the integrity of DOE's decision-making process. We can ill afford to decide the fate of our nation's security on the floor of Congress. Let's allow the nation's top experts in this field to make their decision based on the careful considerations of cost and merit regarding both options.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

Mr. THURMOND. Mr. President, would the able gentleman from Alabama join me in a colloquy regarding the Department of Energy's tritium production program?

Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I would be happy to engage the Committee Chairman in a colloquy on the subject of tritium production.

Mr. THURMOND. I believe the Senator from Alabama has an interest in the Department of Energy's tritium production program and I believe he shares my strong interest in restoring a sound United States tritium production capability to support our enduring nuclear deterrent.

Mr. SESSIONS. That is correct. We must have new tritium production to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent. The Department of Energy is currently assessing two potential technologies to produce tritium for defense purposes. One option is to construct a linear accelerator facility and the other is to complete the Bellefonte nuclear plant in my home state of Alabama.

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Mr. THURMOND. I understand the Senator's strong support for our national defense. I also understand that the Senator has offered an amendment to the Fiscal Year 1999 Defense Authorization Act which would require the Department of Energy to follow applicable laws and internal Departmental policies and procedures in selecting a permanent tritium source.

Mr. SESSIONS. It is my belief that any conference outcome on this issue should not limit the ability of the DOE to make a final selection on the two alternatives. I am hopeful, of course, that the Bellefonte plant would be favorably considered.

Mr. THURMOND. I understand the position of the Senator from Alabama. As he knows well, I support the accelerator alternative. He also understands well that the dynamics of the House Senate conference preclude me from making any pre-conference agreements on conference outcomes. However, I assure the Senator from Alabama that despite my own interests, and my position as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, that I will not work personally to disadvantage the Bellefonte alternative in the conference. With this understanding, I am prepared to accept the Senator's amendment.

Mr. SESSIONS. I agree and thank the Chairman for his cooperation and understanding on this issue. I appreciate your consideration of this issue and my amendment.

Mr. COVERDELL. Mr. President, I rise today in support of a position taken by the House last month in their version of the Defense Authorization bill. During House debate, Congressman Graham of South Carolina and Congressman Markey of Massachusetts introduced an amendment to ban the use of commercial nuclear reactors to produce tritium. Tritium, as you know Mr. President, is a material essential to the efficacy of our nuclear arsenal which, because it decays, must be replenished over time. Tritium has not been produced in this country since 1988 and a new source is needed to maintain our nuclear weapons stockpile at the levels called for in the START II treaty. The question now is where production of the needed tritium will take place.

For fifty years the United States has drawn a strong line between commercial and military production of nuclear materials. While tritium is produced in commercial reactors as a by-product of the fission process, this material is not used for nuclear weapon application. Instead, tritium for our nuclear arsenal was long produced at the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The DOE is now considering the use of a commercial reactor to produce weapons grade tritium. We must not arbitrarily allow this shift in our nation's nuclear policy.

The recent nuclear tests in India and Pakistan sent a strong signal across the world that the efforts, particularly those of the United States, to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons have not fully succeeded. In this light we must upgrade our efforts to halt nuclear proliferation. Should Congress allow the commercial production of weapons grade tritium we would take a step backwards in our efforts to curtail proliferation. We would tell the rest of the world that commercial reactors are a viable means to enhance a nuclear arsenal. This is no time to send this kind of message.

The DOE's other option is to build a nuclear accelerator at the Savannah River Site, where production of tritium for our nuclear arsenal has traditionally taken place. Mr. President, this is the correct policy option for our country and for our efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation. I hope that when the Senate and the House begin their conference negotiations on the FY99 Defense Authorization bill the Senate will agree to the language included in the House bill by Congressmen Graham and Markey preventing commercial production of tritium.

Mr. SHELBY. Mr. President, I rise in support of the amendment offered by Mr. Sessions and commend his effort to bring attention to the important, though obscure issue of tritium production. Since the looming threat of nuclear war dissipated in the aftermath of the demise of the Soviet Union, our strategic forces have been pushed to the sidelines. But recent events in the Asia subcontinent remind us not only of the danger from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction but also of the imperative to maintain the deterrent effect of our strategic weapons stockpile.

Tritium is a radioactive isotope that is used in every nuclear warhead in our nation's stockpile. Like all radioactive matter, tritium decays over time. To compensate for the loss from decay, it is necessary to periodically replenish the level of tritium in each weapon. Despite this constant demand, tritium has not been produced for strategic purposes since 1988. Replenishment in the weapons stockpile has continued, however, by recycling tritium from nuclear weapons as they are dismantled. This is only an interim measure, and it is clear that the U.S. will have to resume tritium production sometime soon.

In 1995, the Department of Energy decided to follow a dual-track approach whereby the two most promising options for tritium production would be explored. The first option is to purchase the radioactive gas from a commercial nuclear reactor. The second alternative is to design, construct, and test an accelerator system, which is called the Accelerator Production of Tritium or APT. The Department of Energy was directed by last year's National Defense Authorization Act to conduct an interagency review of tritium production policy issues. The Authorization Act also directed the Energy Department to determine which of two tracks will serve as the primary source of tritium production by the end of this year.

There are forces in Congress, however, who are determined to derail this process. Proponents of APT are trying to prohibit the production of tritium at a commercial reactor. This misguided attempt would leave the Department of Energy with no choice other than using APT as the source for tritium production. Make no mistake about it, this is a thinly disguised attempt to mandate one particular technology that benefits one particular state. It is unfortunate that some are willing to put parochial interests in front of the national security imperative to develop a cheap, safe source of tritium.

As the Secretary of Energy stated, the selection of tritium production should be based on `a careful and deliberate review of the cost, technical, schedule, and policy issues associated with each option.' These sentiments are supported by the Administration and the Department of Defense. I suspect that all of us who believe in fair and honest competition would agree that Congress should not interfere with the Department of Energy's process for selecting a tritium production source. If

proponents of the APT are successful in their efforts however, Congress will do just that, and the decision will be based not on the merits of either option but solely on politics.

The Congress and the taxpayer should be aware of the staggering differences in the price tag associated with each competing technology. The Congressional Budget Office estimate that APT will cost from $6.72 billion to construct. In addition to the initial construction cost, the APT option will require an annual appropriation of $150 million to operate. Furthermore, these estimates are based on preliminary conceptual designs, and the taxpayer of course will be asked to pay for any likely cost overruns.

On the other hand, Mr. President, the commercial reactor option would only cost $1.8 to $2 billion. Moreover, this initial investment is similar to a loan, so every tax dollar spent will be returned to the Treasury. This has been certified by several independent reviews. I would like to add that this option does not require any additional appropriated funds because the commercial reactor owner, not the Treasury, will pay any cost overruns.

If selected by the Department of Energy, a commercial reactor could begin producing tritium by 2003. This is two years ahead of the scheduled that the Departments of Energy and Defense have laid out as necessary to maintain the nuclear stockpile at the START I level. It uses a proven design which is currently being demonstrated. The commercial reactor also provides the Department of Energy with the flexibility to change tritium production quantities in response to changing need without major cost implications.

Serious concerns have been raised about the technical feasibility of the accelerator option. While proponents of APT tout its supposed benefits, I would like to point out that the APT does not exist. It is still a paper concept. Also, several components that are critical to the development of this accelerator are still in the prototype stage. Even if the APT is developed on schedule, it would not be operational until 2007, which is two years after the Department's target date. As a result, the ATP option will require that the Department of Energy will have to find an interim source of tritium until the APT is proven. Any unforeseen delays in the development of the accelerator technology will extend the Department's reliance on an interim source.

Mr. President, the issue before us can be boiled down to this: Should Congress dictate the tritium production method as a political favor regardless of technological risk and cost? I strongly believe that the commercial reactor option should not be removed from consideration by legislation fiat. Instead, the Senate has a responsibility to preserve the integrity of a process that rewards merits and competition. I urge my colleagues to support the Session's amendment and preserve the Department of Energy's dual-track options for tritium production.

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Mr. CLELAND. I rise today to discuss my grave concerns about the policy implications if a decision to produce tritium in a commercial nuclear reactor were to be made. My concerns are especially serious in light of the nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan last month. The recent detonation of nuclear devices in South Asia should serve as a wake-up call to the U.S. and the international community about the unfinished business with respect to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Most of the international effort to slow the spread of nuclear weapons has been focused on limiting access to plutonium and uranium. However, less attention has been given to tritium which can increase the capabilities of these nuclear weapons. To those unfamiliar with the use of tritium in nuclear munitions, tritium is to a nuclear weapon what Tabasco Sauce is to a good bowl of chili--it adds kick. The key point is that it is the tritium which allows the use of smaller delivery systems because it allows a smaller weapon to produce a much greater yield. In the age of concerns about suitcase bombs and the smuggling of weapons across borders, it is critical that we also attempt to limit access to tritium.

It has been long-standing American policy to discourage the use of commercial reactors to produce weapons material. Instead, the Atomic energy Act mandated that the Atomic Energy Commission would be the exclusive owner of production facilities related to nuclear weapons. That authority now lies within the Department of Energy. Unfortunately, when drafted, the Atomic Energy Act did not specifically list tritium as a special nuclear material covered under the act. The House has passed legislation that would insure that tritium is covered as a special nuclear material which is only to be produced in a facility owned by the Department of Energy. I believe such an approach is a reasonable one given our non-proliferation objectives.

Our dwindling supply of tritium and our need to preserve the nation's nuclear deterrent require the U.S. to develop a new tritium production capability at this time. To that end, the U.S. is currently considering two types of tritium production methods. Unfortunately, one of the two technology options under consideration contrasts sharply with our traditional policy. The use of commercial nuclear reactors raises serious concerns about non-proliferation. The U.S. has worked too long and too hard to stem the spread of weapons of mass destruction to abandon the principles of the Atomic Energy Act which has served as well over the last four decades. How can we urge the governments of India, Pakistan, North Korea, and any other country seeking a nuclear weapons capability not to attempt to use reactors designed for peaceful energy production for military purposes when we are contemplating doing a very similar thing here in America?

Now, I am certainly no expert in nuclear physics and the production of nuclear weapons material. However, America has tremendous human resources within the Department of Energy in the form of our scientists, engineers, and plant workers. These Americans helped win the Cold War. Their contributions are significant and not to be overlooked. What is key is that their

contributions are not yet done. The Department of Energy's Savannah River Site has been where tritium has been traditionally produced and processed. That is where America's expertise in tritium production lies. That is where we can be assured that our national non-proliferation objectives will never be subordinated to commercial or other concerns. It is my view that we should once again turn to those great workers there to get the job done as they have proven they are capable.

I will certainly admit, proudly, to my constituency interest in seeing that the Savannah River Site be given fair consideration. However, there is a larger issue at stake here than the economic interests of competing constituent interests. Prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons and the preservation of American leadership on this issue is in the interests of every state, of every region, and of every American.

I do not have the expertise to determine which technology is most viable and cost effective if the choice is between a reactor-based option and an accelerator option. However, I do know that at this point in history, it would be wrong to turn our backs on one of our most effective non-proliferation policies. It is my view that we should continue to maintain our nuclear weapons capability within DOE facilities where we have traditionally done this work.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, the tritium production issue that is the subject of the Sessions amendment is a very important issue.

The Department of Energy must have a level playing field to make a sound decision on a tritium production source. We should not restrict the options available to the Department of Energy in making that choice.

The Sessions amendment would ensure a level playing field for the Department to make its choice. That is why I strongly support the Sessions amendment.

Mr. President, I will work hard to ensure that the conference on the defense authorization bill will result in a level playing field to assure the Energy Department can make the best possible choice. That is in our national interest.

Mr. President, Secretary of Defense William Cohen agrees that there should be no restriction on the options being considered by the Department of Energy on a future tritium production source.

He has sent a letter to the Armed Services Committee today that urges the Senate not to adopt any amendment that would restrict DOE's options. His letter concludes with the following sentence: `Passage of any such amendment would place the Defense Authorization bill at risk.'

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the letter from Secretary Cohen be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the letter was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

The Secretary of Defense
Washington, DC, June 25, 1998.

Hon. Strom Thurmond,
Chairman, Committee on the Armed Services, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.

Dear Mr. Chairman: I am writing to express the opinion of the Department of Defense on proposed amendments to the Fiscal Year 1999 Defense Authorization bill that prohibit commercial light water reactors from producing tritium for military purposes.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is pursuing a dual-track program to produce tritium. One method is to use a commercial light water reactor (CLWR) to irradiate rods from which tritium could be extracted at a DOE facility--in effect, buying irradiation services. The other approach is to build an accelerator to produce tritium (APT). DOE will decide on a primary method by the end of this calendar year. The proposed amendments would effectively foreclose the CLWR option.

DoD opposes the amendments for three reasons. First, if the amendments become law, DOE would require an immediate additional investment of nearly $250M to accelerate development of APT. The long term impacts of the amendments are far more significant. The life cycle cost of APT could be as high as $8.8B. The life cycle cost of the CLWR program could be as low as $1.2B. Thus, the amendments could mandate an unfunded liability of up to $7.6B. Second, the amendments would likely increase the cost of the DOE stockpile stewardship program (SSP). Finally, this amendment appears to be predicated on an assumption that the use of commercial reactors for tritium production is inconsistent with the US nonproliferation policy. It is not. The DOE will forward shortly a completed interagency report that concludes that the nonproliferation policy issues associated with the use of a commercial light water reactor are manageable and that the DOE should continue to pursue the reactor option as a viable source for future tritium production. The DoD fully endorses this position.

In conclusion, DOE has a dual-track program to develop an assured supply of tritium. Until DOE reaches its decision later this year, the wisest choice is to leave our options open. Therefore, I urge you to oppose the amendments that would prohibit CLWR from being considered as an option. Passage of any such amendment would place the Defense Authorization bill at risk.

Respectfully,

William Cohen,
Secretary of Defense.

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