Uranium exports to India by Australia on cards

Uranium exports to India by Australia on cards

Uranium supplu to India

According to latest media reports here today, Australia could drop its ban on selling uranium to India after a report commissioned by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Japanese counterpart recommended changes to the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
The report suggested that three nations not covered by NPT treaty--India, Pakistan and Israel--should sign up to "parallel instruments" designed to ensure they did not divert civilian nuclear materials to military use that will pave the way for them to access uranium and other nuclear materials and technology.

Suggestions in International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament report--released by Japan's Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama yesterday--could resolve this impasse, the report said.

The report said the reality is that India, Pakistan and Israel would not sign up to the treaty and this meant "every effort should be made to achieve their participation in parallel instruments and arrangements which apply equivalent non-proliferation and disarmament obligations".

"Provided they satisfy strong objective criteria demonstrating commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation...these states should have access to nuclear materials and technology for civilian purposes on the same basis as an NPT member," the report said.

Rudd and his then Japanese counterpart set up the commission 18 months ago amid concerns the treaty was unravelling as countries such as North Korea and Iran stepped up their nuclear programs.
It also called on the nuclear powers to cut their arsenals of warheads from 23,000 to 2000 by 2025, to take them off hair-trigger alert status and to adopt "no first use" doctrines.

Rory Medcalf, Lowy Institute's program director for international security, said the report could prompt the government to abandon Labor's resistance to nuclear energy and adopt a more open position towards foreign non-military programs.
"This report is very supportive of the nuclear energy renaissance," he said.
"Australia has to be more actively engaged in the civil nuclear energy revival globally if we are going to be a credible player in the non-proliferation environment".
Medcalf, who was a consultant to the commission, said the report's call for "no first use" policies on weapons could require Australia to change its strategic alliance with the US.

In particular, the government could limit its defence umbrella and rely on the US to deploy nuclear weapons only in the case of a nuclear attack.
A senior government source said Australia's role as an exporter of uranium indicated it already strongly supported overseas civilian nuclear energy programs.
"This proposal (on no first use) is something the government will need to think through. The Prime Minister has said he strongly supports the abolition of nuclear weapons," he said.

Australia has refused to sell uranium to India because India sits outside the Non-proliferation Treaty.
"I think it's pretty self-evident that the ban on supplying uranium to India is a lost cause," commission co-chairman and former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans told 'The Age' publication today.

"It's self-evidently rather quixotic for Australia to be maintaining a ban on the sale of uranium until India joins the NPT when manifestly it is not going to join the NPT and manifestly this is not going to stop it acquiring uranium from other sources," Evans said.
He said he hoped the commission's report would challenge the reflex to become "consumed by NPT theology" and that nations would instead work through the difficult issues raised by the place of nuclear technology in the modern world.
"None of it is easy--getting moving on the multilateral stuff, getting any kind of movement out of the Chinese, Pakistanis and Indians, when they are in the process of actually increasing their arsenals...over and over again, when you explore the detail, you run into these kind of real-world problems," Evans said.

Anti-nuclear activists said the report set too slow a timetable for eliminating weapons.
"In the absence of a clear road map to zero, there are dangers associated with a still cataclysmic destructive capacity being perceived as in any way acceptable, safe or stable," the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons said.
Evans said he felt the atmosphere for tightening controls was now more constructive than at any time in the past decade.
"I think the public mood is in the process of being re-awakened after a decade-long sleepwalk.
"Not only did nothing very much happen positively, we went backwards," he said, citing nuclear tests by India and Pakistan in 1998, a stalemate in international talks on disarmament, intelligence failures and the problems of Iran and North Korea.

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