Rick Perry Goes Nuclear On Elizabeth Warren

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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The Energy Department released a statement in response to Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s claims that Secretary Rick Perry was “confused” about a particular energy law.

The Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony from Perry, the secretary of the Energy Department, on Thursday regarding the Trump administration’s approval of seven applications for the U.S. to sell nuclear power assistance and technology to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. During the hearing, Warren pressed Perry over the legality of the move, saying the Energy Department is required to seek congressional approval.

“Do you agree that any agreement to transfer our nuclear materials, facilities or sensitive technology to Saudi Arabia requires congressional review?” the Democratic senator asked Perry. “The law is it requires congressional review. Are we clear on that?”

Warren later published a video of the exchange on Twitter, saying Perry seemed “confused” and that she “helped him understand” what the law is.


However, according to a subsequent statement from the Energy Department, Warren was actually conflating two separate processes.

“Part 810 authorizations and 123 agreements are two distinct and different processes based on two separate sections of the Atomic Energy Act,” the Thursday statement read. “The authorization process [for 810 authorizations] involves a thorough interagency review that requires the Department of Energy to secure the concurrence of the Department of State, and consult with the Departments of Defense and Commerce, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

Perry issued seven different 810 authorizations to U.S. companies that allow them to export civil nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. These authorizations, an Energy Department spokeswoman stipulated, does not enable the transfer of nuclear equipment, material or components to other countries.

FILE PHOTO: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to supporters in Memphis

FILE PHOTO: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to supporters in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S. March 17, 2019. REUTERS/Karen Pulfer Focht

A 123 agreement, on the other hand, is “the legal mechanism that allows the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to license the export of nuclear material, equipment and components from the U.S.” Unlike 810 authorizations, all 123 agreements “undergo rigorous Congressional review, including 90 days of continuous session review by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.” (RELATED: The ‘Real’ Green New Deal: Rick Perry’s Plan To Save Nuclear)

While the White House has previously held discussions with Saudi Arabia concerning a 123 agreement, the current issue is over the administration’s recent deal to share unclassified civil nuclear technology with their government. Many lawmakers remain concerned over sharing any such information with the Saudi government following the murder of Jamal Kashoggi.

Perry responded to Warren on Twitter, linking to the Energy Department statement and saying, “[Warren], no confusion here, we fully understand and comply with the law [at the Energy Department].”

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