House approves bill blocking nuclear material purchases from Iran


House approves bill blocking nuclear material purchases from Iran

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The House passed a bill Wednesday preventing the United States from purchasing heavy water — a component of some nuclear reactors — from Iran. 

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The bill from Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) would stop the federal government from replicating purchases like the one it made in April, when the U.S. bought 32 tons of heavy water from Iran. The bill passed 249-176.

Heavy water is a component of some nuclear reactors. One of its applications, however, is its potential for combining with uranium to produce weapons-grade plutonium. 

Iran, under the terms of the nuclear deal reached with the U.S. and others a year ago this week, is required to reduce its supply of heavy water. The U.S.’s purchase of the material from the country this year was designed to help Iran follow through with that aspect of the deal. 

Republicans say the purchases are tantamount to the U.S. underwriting the country’s nuclear program. 

“Purchases like this only subsidize and incentivize Iran’s continued production of this sensitive material that plays a central roll in the production of weapons-grade plutonium,” said Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) during a floor debate on Wednesday. 

Many Democrats opposed the bill, saying it would disarm the United States’s ability to influence Iran’s nuclear program — and, indeed, to draw down the country’s stocks of a component for nuclear material. 

“This bill is far too broad,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who opposes the Iran deal but lead debate against Pompeo’s bill.

“We have no idea what the unintended consequences of this bill could be in the years ahead.”

Pompeo’s bill is similar to an amendment authored by Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSenate rejects effort to block Trump's Qatar, Bahrain arms sales Senate rejects effort to block Trump's Qatar, Bahrain arms sales Supporting the military means supporting military spouses MORE (R-Ark.), who tried to amend the chamber’s energy and water spending bill earlier this year with a prohibition on heavy water purchases from Iran.

The Senate voted down that measure, but not before it delayed action on the spending bill for weeks.