Nuclear Security Summit Highlights Need for Nuclear Trafficking Prevention Act

WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, today applauded President Obama’s effort to obtain specific commitments from key countries to secure vulnerable nuclear material at the Nuclear Security Summit taking place in Washington today and tomorrow.  

Senator Casey released the following statement:

“The most serious security threat we face is terrorists with access to nuclear material.  The nature of this threat is global in scale as significant quantities of unsecure nuclear material remain around the world.  We cannot solve this problem on our own and I applaud the president’s efforts to assemble world leaders to devise concrete measures to address the threat posed by loose nuclear materials.  

“In an effort to deter and prevent nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists, I introduced the Nuclear Trafficking Prevention Act last year which would establish nuclear trafficking as a crime against humanity, make it easier to prosecute international nuclear traffickers in U.S courts and strengthen penalties for trafficking nuclear material.  Just as the international community has agreed that such acts as slavery and genocide are crimes against humanity, so too should it come together to brand nuclear smuggling a crime against humanity.

“Too often, we hear of individuals arrested for smuggling fissile material or other sensitive components receiving minimal sentences, as short as a few years in prison.  That is unacceptable if we hope to deter such actions, especially when people are motivated by simple greed.  The United States must bolster its own internal laws to strengthen penalties against those who engage in nuclear trafficking and we should forge an international consensus that such acts constitute crimes against humanity.”

The Nuclear Trafficking Prevention Act includes the following provisions:
•    A formal statement of U.S. policy that the transfer of a nuclear weapon or device or of nuclear material or technology for use for terrorist purposes is a crime against humanity and that individuals abetting such activities are liable under customary international law;

•    An amendment to the United States Code that any person seeking to engage or assist in the transfer of nuclear weapons, material or sensitive nuclear technology to a terrorist organization, or actors thereof, shall be fined no less than $2 million and imprisoned for a minimum period of 25 years; and

•    A provision directing the Secretary of State to seek the adoption in the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution recognizing that the transfer of a nuclear weapon, fissile material and related components for the purpose of an act of terrorism is a crime against humanity and to encourage other nations to adopt stringent national laws imposing severe penalties for individuals who aid or abet acts of nuclear smuggling.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) is the sponsor of the House version of the Nuclear Trafficking Prevention Act.

Last year, Senator Casey, along with Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), co-founded the Senate Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism Caucus.  The Caucus has sponsored briefings on the Administration's efforts to counter nuclear terrorism and recently held an event on the threat posed by bio-terrorism.