Congressional Actions on HEU Use for Medical Isotope Production
U.S. congressional efforts to reduce the use of HEU for isotope production date from the early 1990s. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (the 1992 Act) required that foreign producers who received HEU from the United States cooperate in converting to LEU-based production. This section of the 1992 Act, which is sometimes referred to as the Schumer Amendment after its sponsor, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), reads, in part, as follows:
The [Nuclear Regulatory] Commission may issue a license for the export of highly enriched uranium to be used as a fuel or target in a nuclear research or test reactor only if, in addition to any other requirement of this Act, the Commission determines that—(1) there is no alternative nuclear reactor fuel or target enriched in the isotope 235 to a lesser percent than the proposed export, that can be used in the reactor; (2) the proposed recipient of that uranium has provided assurances that, whenever an alternative nuclear reactor fuel or target can be used in that reactor, it will use that alternative in lieu of highly enriched uranium; and (3) the United States Government is actively developing an alternative nuclear reactor fuel or target that can be used in that reactor…. the term “alternative nuclear reactor fuel or target” means a nuclear reactor fuel or target which is enriched to less than 20 percent in the isotope U-235.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempts certain HEU recipient countries, specifically Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, from some provisions of the Schumer Amendment. The section of the 2005 Act referred to as the Burr-Bond Amendment, after its sponsors, Representative Richard Burr (R-NC) and Senator Christopher (Kit) Bond (R-Mo), reads, in part, as follows:
The [Nuclear Regulatory] Commission may issue a license authorizing the export (including shipment to and use at intermediate and ultimate consignees specified in the license) to a recipient country of highly enriched uranium for medical isotope production if, in addition to any other requirements of this Act (except subsection a.), the Commission determines that—(A) a recipient country that supplies an assurance letter to the United States Government in connection with the consideration by the Commission of the export license application has informed that United States Government that any intermediate consignees and that ultimate consignee specified in the application are required to use the highly enriched uranium solely to produce medical isotopes; and (B) the highly enriched uranium for medical isotope production will be irradiated only in a reactor in a recipient country that—(i) uses an alternative nuclear reactor fuel; or (ii) is the subject of an agreement with the United States Government to convert to an alternative nuclear reactor fuel when alternative nuclear reactor fuel can be used in the reactor.