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Statement on Signing the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material Implementation Act of 1982

October 19, 1982

I have signed into law H.R. 5228, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material Implementation Act of 1982.

This step symbolizes our firm commitment both to preventing the spread of nuclear explosives and to fighting the scourge of terrorism. Nuclear proliferation threatens global security, and preventing it is critically important to the United States. Terrorism threatens the fabric of society by indiscriminately aiming violence at the innocent. The commitment of this administration against these global problems has been, and will continue to be, firm and unshakable.

The step I have taken also symbolizes longstanding objectives of the United States people and Congress. The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the implementing law drew strong, bipartisan support. Such a bipartisan approach is essential for effective action in this area.

The act implements an international convention negotiated at the initiative of the United States and signed in March 1980. This convention calls for adequate physical protection of nuclear material during international transport and for international cooperation in recovering stolen nuclear material and in dealing with serious offenses involving such material. The Senate approved the Convention by 98 - 0 in July 1981, but deposit of the U.S. instrument of ratification has awaited enactment of this implementing legislation.

It, too, had overwhelming legislative support. The implementing act amends the Federal Criminal Code to make theft of nuclear material, nuclear extortion, and similar serious offenses involving nuclear material Federal crimes. This fills a gap in U.S. Federal criminal law and establishes jurisdiction over most of these offenses wherever committed, and the offenders are subject to a system of extradition or submission for prosecution. In emergencies, the Attorney General can obtain assistance from the Department of Defense in enforcing the act.

The United States is a leader in the international campaign to prevent nuclear proliferation and terrorism, and the Congress is to be commended for its important contributions in these fields. With respect to the act I have signed, Senators Thurmond, Percy, and Mathias and Congressmen Hughes, Sawyer, Rodino, and McClory, among others, deserve special credit for their efforts. I am pleased that the Congress and the administration are taking this step together.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 5228 is Public Law 97 - 351, approved October 18.