Wednesday, December 10, 2014

India-Australia N-deal under cloud: Ex-Aussie chief nuclear watchdog "warns" agreement lacks safeguards

By Our Representative
The International Business Times (IBT), Australia, has reported that Australia's uranium deal with India has come under severe scrutiny following warning of a former Aussie chief atomic watchdog that the treaty “did not have all the safeguards necessary to prevent India from fuelling its nuclear bombs." The top business paper said, while the treaties committee of the Australian Parliament was "urged" to endorse the deal signed by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September, enabling exports of uranium to begin, things seem to be changing now.
Reporting the development, the paper said, John Carlson, former head of Australia's nuclear safeguards organisation, told the Parliament committee recently that "the nuclear weapons programme of India is expanding with complex links to non-government reactors". Basing on what Carlson told the Parliament committee, the paper quotes unidentified analysts to say that there is "fear" that the warning may become a reason for the Australian Labour Party to "scale back its support” to the nuclear deal.
The paper said, the Labour was partially opposed to the sale of uranium to India in the beginning, and “put an end to a proposal during the Howard government." However, "Labour had a change of heart in 2011 when it was urged by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the promise of strict guidelines", it added.
The paper reported, "Carlson warned that the treaty signed by Abbott had lower measures of protection that the other uranium deals the government has approved with Russia or China. In his submission to the parliament committee, Carlson said the proposed deal with India would not allow for a definite monitoring of uranium used in India's nuclear programme.”
Carlson also said that Australia “will have no right to demand a return of uranium from India if the agreement is violated as it is possible with other 41 countries in the same export deal." Reporting on simialr lines, another paper, The Age, Australia, said, in his detailed submission, Carlson said that under the proposed deal Australia “could not definitively track uranium used in India's nuclear programme and what happened subsequently to fuel reprocessed into plutonium”
“Nor would Australia have the right to demand the return of uranium should the agreement be breached, as it can with 41 other countries covered by similar export deals", The Age quoted Carslon as telling the Parliament committee. It added, things are particularly tricky as “India is estimated to have between 90 and 110 nuclear weapons and has refused to sign international disarmament treaties".
The paper said, "Several Indian nuclear reactors are designated 'dual use' for civilian energy and military needs... The deal would not be the first on uranium to run afoul of the treaties committee, with the Russia deal held up almost two years over concerns that yellowcake could be diverted into nuclear weapons."
The Age quoted Labour MP Kelvin Thomson as saying that the Parliament committee had received detailed submissions expressing concern “not so much at the idea of supplying uranium to India but about the provisions of the agreement”, and "clearly the committee will need to consider those submissions carefully".
Melissa Parke, another Labour MP on the committee has been quoted also as saying that "India's nuclear record was far from impeccable, it having reneged on an agreement with Canada in the 1970s and tested an atomic weapon." The Age also reported "several other submissions, including one from Ron Walker, a former governor of the International Atomic Energy Agency, expressed concern". It suggested, things would become even clearer when the committee holds public hearings before reporting in February or March.
Pointing towards the importance of Carlson, The Age said, he was “in charge of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office for more than 20 years until 2010 and was criticised during that time by anti-nuclear campaigners for facilitating uranium exports.” It added, “In Carlson's view there were "good reasons for concluding a nuclear co-operation agreement with India, but not this agreement".

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