ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - June 25, 2004)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 694 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the further consideration of the bill, H.R. 4614.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SCHIFF. Madam Chairman, I rise in support of the Meehan-Schiff amendment to accelerate the funding of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.
The most significant threat to the national security of the United States is the risk that terrorists will acquire the material, the expertise, and the technology to create a nuclear weapon. Of these three components, the material, the expertise, and the technology, it is the material, highly enriched uranium or plutonium, that has posed the greatest bar to the acquisition of the bomb by terrorists.
And that material is far too easy to obtain. Beginning in the 1950s, the U.S. and Russia exported research reactors with highly enriched uranium to many nations around the world. Today, as my colleague pointed out, 345 operating or shutdown reactors in 58 countries possess highly enriched uranium.
The State Department has identified 24 of the highest priority facilities for clean-out operations, because they contain enough highly enriched uranium to make a bomb. Many of these facilities are terrifyingly insecure.
The energy and water bill contains only $9.8 million for global clean-out of these reactors, enough to clean out only one site per year. At this pace it will take more than 2 decades to merely clean out the top 24. We cannot wait that long.
Osama bin Laden has declared that the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction is a religious duty. After the Taliban was defeated, blueprints of a crude nuclear program were found in the deserted al Qaeda headquarters in Afghanistan.
Does anyone doubt that if al Qaeda could assemble a nuclear weapon, they would use it? They would use it.
Last month, the Secretary of Energy announced what may be one of the most important national security initiatives of our time, a $450 million effort to clean out highly enriched uranium around the world. We cannot wait to implement this initiative. Al Qaeda is not waiting, and we must act now.
The Secretary's initiative will take almost a decade to implement, and there is no guarantee that nuclear material will not be stolen in the interim. Far from it. We must accelerate the time line for this initiative. Tragically today, we find ourselves in a new nuclear arms race. It is very simply a race as to whether we can secure nuclear material before the terrorists can buy or steal it.
The Meehan-Schiff amendment provides $30 million in additional funding for this initiative to get this program underway immediately.
We have spent countless billions of dollars on the war in Iraq, a war that was waged to remove stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction from the reach of terrorists. The terrible irony of our present situation is that, while we have not found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, we know where there are large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, large stockpiles of nuclear material, and we have a cooperative means of securing them and placing them beyond the reach of terrorists.
To scrimp on this effort is worse than negligent. It is a betrayal of the public trust. In this race, as Senator Nunn so aptly describes it, we are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe. We must not flag or fail in this race. Vote "yes" on the Schiff-Meehan amendment to jump-start the global threat reduction initiative.
Mr. HOBSON. Mr. Chairman, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from California (Mr. Schiff).
Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentleman yielding me this time.
I certainly want to congratulate my colleagues from California and Massachusetts for bringing this matter to our attention. I certainly agree with their intent and their assessment of the problem we face. It is one reason why I am happy that in the bill that was crafted by the subcommittee, there is a shift of $177.5 million for priority targets for nonproliferation. Among others, that includes Russia's strategic rocket forces. It includes megaports. It includes the
second-line-of-defense efforts in the Baltics and efforts outside the former Soviet Union.
As the chairman had indicated earlier, the Secretary made the announcement of this program in Vienna. He has not had discussion or shared specifics of the program with the subcommittee or committee. There has been no transmission of the specifics to Congress on the program or its implementation.
So while, again, the intent is excellent, against the lack of specifics and given the prioritization within the bill, I would reluctantly express my opposition to the amendment, but would suggest that the chairman and I will work with both gentlemen as we proceed to conference relative to DOE's plan.