Russia and the U.S. close to nuclear deal

A U.S. congressional panel has given the green light to civilian nuclear co-operation between the United States and Russia. However a number of lawmakers were against the so-called 123 nuclear agreement, citing concerns that Russia might leak sensitive te

In May the U.S. and Russia signed the deal, which allows the exchange of research technology and nuclear material for peaceful purposes.

Now the U.S. Congress has taken the next step towards approving the pact – but with some extra conditions.

The bill stipulates that U.S. companies shall not be able to export to Russia nuclear materials until
assurances have been given that the Russian government does not transfer them to Iran for the purposes of making nuclear, chemical or biological weapons
 
But congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says Russia has never done this anyway.  She says that “Russia is fully cooperating with U.S. efforts to impose sanctions on Iran”.

Other representatives said Russia was not to blame for problems with Iran and claim the U.S. has just as much to benefit if not more from a nuclear agreement with Russia. lawmaker Dana Rohrabacher: “We rely on the Russians now to help us maintain international space stations,”

The agreement will open the way for Russia to import, store and possibly even reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

The two sides have discussed such a deal for more than a decade. The first signs of progress came two years ago – on the eve of the G8 summit in St. Petersburg.

Speaking in May the then president, Vladimir Putin, said the two sides had reached a deal: “Its main goal is to contribute to the sustainability and reliability of the supply of energy resource and parallel reduction of the threat of the spread of nuclear weapons”, he said.

It was not until Putin's last day as president on May 6th that the two countries signed the actual agreement.

A few days later President Bush did his part. He submitted the agreement to Congress without any conditions regarding Iran.

Executive Director of the Arms Control Association in Washington DC, Daryl Kimball explained why the U.S. adopted the deal:“The Bush administration has calculated that the support of Russia's efforts related to Iran will be stronger if the 123 Agreement is approved,” he said.

Iran is not the only problem. There is also the issue of timing.

The only way for the agreement to be approved this year is to also pass the conditions that have to do with Iran.

Otherwise the issue will be carried over into next year and it will then be up to the next U.S. presidential administration to deal with it.