The Biden administration’s decision to extend an invitation to China and Russia for a tour of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) site in Nevada, a crucial facility for U.S. national security, has sparked a sharp reaction from GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and a coalition of 18 House Republicans. In a letter dated November 9 addressed to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, these Republicans raised concerns about the potential ramifications of offering access to a sensitive U.S. nuclear testing site to foreign adversaries.
Expressing their worry about the administration’s move, the Republicans highlighted the risk posed by granting unprecedented access to strategic rivals without any reciprocity. They emphasized that such actions could embolden these adversaries, such as China, which is intensively expanding its nuclear capabilities. General Anthony Cotton’s testimony earlier this year, along with the Defense Department’s 2023 China Military Power Report, warned about China’s rapid growth in nuclear warheads, surpassing previous U.S. estimates. The concern is that providing access without any guarantees of transparency might encourage further nuclear expansion without any meaningful engagement from China on discussions regarding its nuclear programs.
Reports revealed that the NNSA proposed inviting Chinese and Russian counterparts to tour the sensitive Nevada site during an International Atomic Energy Agency summit, with no immediate response from China and Russia. The motivation behind extending such an invitation is a point of contention and raises significant questions.
The offer came amid Russia’s withdrawal from a key nuclear arms control pact with the United States and their pullout from a global treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons tests, both moves criticized by the U.S. State Department. Furthermore, earlier incidents like the discovery of a Chinese surveillance balloon over U.S. military sites have heightened concerns about national security.
Representative Doug Lamborn, among the co-signers of the letter, expressed deep concern, stating that allowing adversaries to observe U.S. nuclear facilities risks revealing critical methods and procedures, thereby eroding deterrence. He stressed the need to safeguard the nation’s nuclear arsenal, calling the reports of inviting citizens from adversarial nations to witness U.S. nuclear weapons tests deeply troubling.
The House Republicans, through their letter, sought answers regarding the administration’s rationale behind offering such access and highlighted the potential threats posed to U.S. national security by granting unfettered access to sensitive nuclear technology without clear assurances or reciprocal actions from the involved nations.