Tuesday, September 08, 2015

"Setback" to India's N-dream: Australian Parliament committee talks of "significant risks" in supplying uranium

A uranium mine in South Australia
By Our Representative
In a setback to India, a new report by the Australian Parliament’s treaties committee has said that there are “some significant risks” in selling uranium to India. India sealed an agreement for the supply of uranium for “peaceful uses of nuclear energy” during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Australia in September 2014.
The just-released report wants the Australian government to commence selling uranium to India only when India achieves “full separation of civil and military nuclear facilities as verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)”, with India establishing “an independent nuclear regulatory authority under law”, and this regulator is ensured complete “independence”.
The setback comes a week after Australian Minister of Defence Kevin Andrews met Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar in New Delhi on September 2, 2015.
The report, prepared under the chairmanship of Liberal MP Wyatt Roy, talks of “three areas of risk associated with the agreement”, to quote Roy. According to him, the first is the risk to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), to which India is “not a signatory”. In fact, according to him, India “exists in isolation from the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream.”
Wanting the Australian government to “engage in diplomatic effort” to produce a “genuine non-proliferation”, Roy, however, believes, as of today “it is not realistic to expect India to renounce the manufacture of nuclear weapons and dismantle its nuclear arsenal”, as the country “borders two other nuclear weapons states with which it is occasionally in conflict.”
“The second area of risk”, according to Roy, relates to “the regulation of India’s nuclear facilities”. Here, he says, “Both the Auditor-General of India and the International Atomic Energy Commission have identified a number of weaknesses in the regulatory framework that jeopardise nuclear safety and security.”
Given this framework, Roy says, the committee under him “has made a recommendation that the sale of uranium to India only commence when these weaknesses have been addressed.”
And the third risk, says Roy, relates to “two unresolved issues relating to the provisions of the Agreement”, especially the “the terminology used in the consent mechanism for the refinement of nuclear materials, and the question of whether the proposed Agreement breaches the Treaty of Rarotonga.”
The “risks” have be referred to alongside the report suggesting that it would make good business sense to sell uranium to India. It insists, Australia possesses 30 per cent of the known global reserves of uranium ore and the agreement with the Government of India “can double the size of Australia’s nuclear mining sector”, with Australian export income could “add up to $1.75b to the Australian economy”.
Meanwhile, the Australian Greens have said the agreement was putting “short-term political expedience above global security”. In their comment on the report, they have underlined, “As such, the Australian Greens cannot support this agreement and urge others to do likewise.”
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has asked the Australian government to ensure that all safeguards are in place before the treaty is ratified. “It is disingenuous for the committee to recommend ratification while simultaneously acknowledging the substantial deficiencies that must be addressed before the agreement can be acted on,” it said in a statement.
Says Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation, the report’s claims that the uranium mining industry will double as a result of the potential deal “do not stack up... Australian uranium production in 2014 was the lowest for 16 years. Uranium provides less than 0.2% of national export revenue and 0.02% of Australian jobs.”

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