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Senate Passes Obama-Hagel Provision Aimed at Preventing Nuclear Terrorism

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Location: Washington, DC


Senate Passes Obama-Hagel Provision Aimed at Preventing Nuclear Terrorism

The Senate recently passed a provision authored by Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) to help keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. The legislation was included as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill.

The Obama-Hagel amendment requires the President to submit to Congress a comprehensive plan for ensuring that all nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material at vulnerable sites around the world are secure by 2012 from the threats that terrorists have shown they can pose.

"Securing nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material at their source is the most direct and reliable way to prevent nuclear terrorism," said Senator Obama. "It is imperative that we build and sustain a truly global effort under an aggressive timeline to secure, consolidate, and reduce stockpiles of nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material to keep them out of the wrong hands."

"Nuclear proliferation will be one of the defining challenges for the United States and the world in the 21st century. The U.S. must actively engage the international community in a constructive dialogue that will focus on strengthening the current international nuclear nonproliferation framework. This amendment provides the directive for development of a comprehensive strategy to adequately secure and account for nuclear stockpiles throughout the world. There is no higher priority for America and the world than to address this great threat to mankind," Senator Hagel said.

Despite significant progress by the U.S. to improve the security of nuclear stockpiles in some parts of the world, there are still significant quantities of weapons-usable nuclear material that remain vulnerable to theft or diversion. For example, there are an estimated 60 tons of highly enriched uranium - enough to make over 1,000 nuclear bombs - that are spread out at non-military facilities in over 40 countries around the world. Physical security at these facilities varies significantly, creating dangerous vulnerabilities to theft or diversion.

In addition to requiring a plan to secure nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material by 2012, the Obama-Hagel amendment would require the U.S. to work with other countries to ensure adequate accounting and security of nuclear stockpiles on an ongoing basis thereafter. The amendment would further require the U.S. to ensure that its own nuclear weapons stockpile and weapons-usable material are adequately protected.

This provision was one component of the Obama-Hagel Nuclear Weapons Threat Reduction Act (S. 1977), which was introduced in August. That bill would promote U.S. leadership in a global effort to prevent nuclear terrorism, reduce global nuclear arsenals, and stop the spread of nuclear weapons and related technology.

The provisions of S. 1977 include the following: support for an international nuclear fuel reserve to discourage countries from building their own uranium enrichment capability; additional funding to strengthen the inspection capabilities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); talks with Russia to further reduce global nuclear arsenals; progress on a verifiable global ban on the production of fissile material for weapons; reconsideration of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; expansion of export controls and interdiction capabilities; and the establishment of a commission to develop recommendations about U.S. nonproliferation policy.


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