Australia plans to lift uranium ban

Australia plans to lift uranium ban

New Delhi, however, was quick to welcome th­e move, saying it was a recognition of its “impeccable non-proliferation credentials” and growing energy needs.

“We understand that Prime Minister Gillard proposes to seek a change in Australian Labor Party’s policy on the sale of uranium to India, in recognition of our growing energy needs, impeccable non-proliferation record and the strategic partnership between the two countries. We welcome this initiative,” said External Affairs Minister S M Krishna in Bangalore.

Though Gillard argued that the sale of uranium to India would help boost the economy and raise job opportunities Down Under, the move to review the policy is likely to be opposed by the Australian Greens which her minority government depends on to pass legislation in Parliament. The opposition, Liberal Party, however is expected to support the proposal.

Gillard, however, indicated that even when Canberra would lift the ban on sale of uranium to India, it would ask New Delhi to give “strong bilateral undertakings” and adhere to certain “transparency measures” in addition to the International Atomic Energy Association’s safeguards to make sure that it would be used only for peaceful purposes.
Though New Delhi secured a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group in 2008, Australia’s Labour Party government remained firm on its stand of not selling uranium to India, particularly because the latter had not signed the NPT.

India has been ke­en to so­u­rce some of the uranium required for its ambitious nuclear programme from Australia which has nearly 40 per cent of the world’s yellowcake res­erve.
The erstwhile Liberal Party Government of Australia had decided to allow export of uranium when the latter had been working with the US to pave way for the civil nuclear deal between New Delhi and Washington. But, soon after Kevin Rudd took over as prime minister of the Labour Governm­ent in December 2007,  he rev­er­sed the decision of his pr­edecessor John Howard.

The Labour Government’s stand not to sell uranium to India has been criticised in Australia too. The Liberal Party has been questioning the rationale behind selling yellowcake to China, but not to India, which is the world's largest democracy and has an impeccable non-proliferation track record.

Canberra has been ignoring the repeated prodding by New Delhi, noting that its policy of not allowing uranium export to a non-NPT country was not sp­ecifically directed against India.

But, Gillard on Tuesday  said  she would seek support from her party for a reversal of the policy during its national conference next month.

“India is our fourth biggest export market, a market worth nearly  $16 billion to Australia, with enormous potential to grow as India becomes wealthier,” she said.
The proposed policy shift will not only help repair ties between India and Australia, but will  help open a new market for companies like Energy Res­o­urces of Australia Limited which is controlled by Rio Tinto Gr­oup and the BHP Billiton Limited.

Australian companies exported uranium worth AUD 960 million in the year ending June 30 this year. The two-way trade between Australia and India reached AUD 18.4 billion in 2010. The trade volume is likely to shoot up if Gillard  can get the ban lifted.

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