You are here

Congressional Research Service, "U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement," Updated Sept. 6, 2007

The Congressional Research Service report was prepared by Shirley Kan and Mark Holt.
September 6, 2007


This CRS Report, updated as warranted, discusses the agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by focusing on congressional roles in crafting and carrying out the agreement. Almost 13 years passed between the time that President Reagan submitted the agreement to Congress in July 1985 and its implementation in March 1998 under the Clinton Administration. Key developments in the U.S.-China nuclear cooperation agreement were timed for diplomatic summits between U.S. Presidents and PRC leaders. On April 30, 1984, President Reagan witnessed the initialing of the agreement. Secretary of Energy John Herrington signed the agreement on July 23, 1985. On July 24, 1985, President Reagan submitted to Congress the “Agreement Between the United States and the People’s Republic of China Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.” Consideration of whether a Presidential certification would be the centerpiece of a summit in 1997 advanced the agreement’s implementation. President Clinton, on January 12, 1998, signed certifications (as required by P.L. 99-183) on China’s nuclear nonproliferation policy and practices to implement the agreement. Clinton also issued a certification and waived a sanction imposed after the 1989 Tiananmen Crackdown (as required by P.L. 101-246). Congressional review ended on March 18, 1998, and the agreement has since been implemented.

Congress played an important role in determining implementation of the agreement, including holding hearings, crafting legislation, and requiring and reviewing Presidential certifications. One of the primary congressional actions was enacted in P.L. 99-183, the Joint Resolution Relating to the Approval and Implementation of the Proposed Agreement for Nuclear Cooperation Between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, which required a Presidential certification and a report followed by a period of 30 days of continuous session of Congress before the agreement could be implemented. After the 1989 Tiananmen Crackdown, Congress enacted sanctions in P.L. 101-246, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FYs 1990-1991, suspending nuclear cooperation with China and requiring an additional Presidential certification on the PRC’s nuclear nonproliferation assurances.

Some Members have been concerned about U.S. nuclear cooperation with China in the context of China’s practices related to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Members also have been interested in how Congress reviewed the agreement with China as well as how this experience might apply to other similar agreements, such as that with India. Congress also exercises oversight of exchanges with China in the nuclear area conducted by the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Some Members have considered whether financing by the U.S. Export-Import Bank should support nuclear exports to China.

On February 28, 2005, Westinghouse submitted a bid to sell four nuclear power reactors to China, as supported by the Bush Administration and the Export-Import Bank. In Beijing in December 2006, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman signed a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding that granted the deal to Westinghouse. Westinghouse signed the contract in July 2007.

The full report can be found here.

Click here for a listing of reports released by the Congressional Research Service.