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Russian, Chinese nuclear cooperation spurs House to sound alarm

The plea to the White House coincides with an arrest warrant that the International Criminal Court issued against Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Calling it a threat to U.S. national security, a group of House Republicans urged immediate action Friday on the collaboration between Russia’s state-owned atomic energy company and China’s strategic nuclear forces.

The lawmakers expressed their concern in a letter to national security adviser Jake Sullivan and other White House cabinet members, citing reports that Moscow’s national nuclear energy firm, Rosatom, has been supplying China with shipments of highly enriched uranium used to produce critical components for nuclear weapons.

“We call on the Administration to view this cooperation for what it is, a direct threat to U.S. security and more evidence that Russia and China are working in tandem against the United States,” wrote Representative Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Texas Republican, alongside his House colleagues Mike Rogers of Alabama and Mike Turner of Ohio, noted that Rosatom has been assisting Beijing with its nuclear program since at least 2016, and has partnered with China’s state nuclear power company to build and operate two new nuclear power plants in the country.

But they said Russian efforts to supply China with highly enriched uranium go far beyond civilian nuclear power projects.

Highly enriched uranium is used in specialized nuclear reactors, known as breeder reactors, that produce plutonium — the central element of a nuclear warhead. China is building two such reactors, one of which is slated to come online this year.

Similarly, shipments of highly enriched uranium to Beijing from Rosatom are scheduled to begin sometime in 2023.

McCaul views such activity as part of a concerted effort from China to build up its nuclear arsenal. The congressman pointed to a 2022 report from the Department of Defense that concluded that weapons-grade plutonium is critical for the Chinese nuclear program. The use of breeder reactors could allow Beijing to produce dozens of warheads per year, the report found.

“Make no mistake, the PRC and Russia’s actions constitute an acceleration of their on-going arms race,” McCaul wrote.

The lawmakers warned that Rosatom may also be supplying the Russian military with technology and materials to support its invasion of Ukraine, citing an October 2022 letter from a company department chief offering goods to the military and Russian weapons manufacturers.

The McCaul coalition tipped their hats to the White House for its Feb. 24 decision to sanction three Rosatom subsidiaries but urged the White House to take further action to hamper the Russian and Chinese nuclear partnership. “We ask that you use all the tools at your disposal, such as the full application of sanctions, export controls, and diplomacy, to stop Putin from using Rosatom to challenge U.S. interests across the globe.”

McCaul’s letter comes as the International Criminal Court Friday issued a warrant of arrest for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of violating international law by allowing Ukrainian children to be deported into Russia. The multinational legal body also issued a warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, the head of Moscow’s child rights authority.

A day earlier, meanwhile, the Department of Defense released footage of an incident involving a Russian military jet and a U.S. surveillance drone over the Black Sea, south of Ukraine.

The 42-second clip depicts a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jet executing two close passes of a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone, damaging the unmanned vehicle’s propeller, and forcing it to land. The Pentagon has said it is unclear whether the drone was downed intentionally — Moscow claims its jet never made contact.

McCaul pressured senior administration officials to speak out publicly against Rosatom’s activities in the nuclear sector and in Ukraine.

“The longer we wait to act, the more difficult it will be to address Rosatom’s nefarious and malign dealings,” the letter states. “In short, every dollar and euro that Rosatom brings in directly finances the death and destruction we see in Ukraine, China’s nuclear weapon expansion, and is a direct threat to the American way of life. 

Rosatom, founded in 2007, is one of the world’s largest nuclear power companies. The firm operates 11 nuclear power plants in Russia and provides nuclear technology and services to dozens of other countries, such as India, Egypt and Turkey.

Categories: Government International Technology

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