Professor Alan Kuperman influences Senate vote to protect uranium export restrictions
For LBJ School Professor Alan J. Kuperman, the recent U.S. Senate vote to protect laws that restrict the export of bomb-grade uranium signified both a victory for the American public and a defeat for special interest lobbying in the U.S. Senate.
The issue is complicated because highly enriched uranium can be used to save lives or to destroy them. When put to civilian use, the uranium can be used by pharmaceutical companies to produce life-saving medical isotopes. In the wrong hands, however, the uranium can be put into a Hiroshima-type bomb. So the United States has encouraged drug companies to switch their production methods to rely on low-enriched uranium, which is not suitable for bombs.
According to Kuperman, a nuclear proliferation expert, American doctors have been frightened into thinking that there is now a shortage of life-saving medical isotopes. Because of this, they have been lobbying to lift the restrictions on the export of bomb-grade uranium contained in a U.S. law authored by then-Rep. (now Senator) Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) in 1992, when Kuperman was his legislative director.
“The greatest obstacles to this antiterrorism policy are a handful of foreign isotope manufacturers who supply the American medical market because there is no significant domestic producer,” said Kuperman in an article that appeared in National Review. “The foreign firms resist the one-time inconvenience and expense of converting their manufacturing processes to produce [isotopes with] the safer uranium.”
“Instead, they have tried to gut U.S. export restrictions by scaring doctors into believing that otherwise there will be an interruption in isotope supplies.”
With help from American doctors, lobbyists representing the foreign pharmaceutical companies successfully persuaded the House of Representatives to add a provision to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 designed to ease restrictions.
Kuperman lent a strong voice in the debate leading up to the June 23 vote in the Senate that struck the provision from its version of the energy bill. In addition to the National Review op-ed, he was quoted on the subject in U.S. News & World Report and cited twice on the Senate floor in the discussions leading up to the vote.
His bottom-line statement in National Review capsulized his position: “There is no urgent threat to American supplies of medical isotopes that would justify gutting U.S. antiterrorism law in this year’s energy bill.”
Kuperman, who will begin teaching at the LBJ School this fall, is also a senior policy analyst at the Nuclear Control Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and advocacy center whose mission is to prevent nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. He has published a book and numerous articles on topics related to international relations and conflict management. This fall he will teach a graduate seminar titled “Ethnic Conflict and Humanitarian Intervention.”
Before joining the LBJ School, Kuperman served as a resident assistant professor of international relations at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna, Italy. He has a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.A. in international relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
In addition to his academic experience, Kuperman has been a fellow in the U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of Caribbean Affairs, legislative director for Congressman Charles Schumer of New York, legislative assistant for U.S. House Speaker Thomas S. Foley, and chief of staff for Congressman James H. Scheuer.
Con: A manufacturer uses false scare tactics to push its agenda”
Security Watch: Loosening nukes”
© Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
6 July 2005
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