Australian uranium sales to India, fraught with hypocrisy and danger
If we really want to assist Indian communities who currently lack access to electricity – and we should – it would be far more effective to prioritise exporting Australian expertise in regional renewable energy systems.
the admission this week from India’s own auditor that the country’s nuclear industry is “dangerously unsafe, disorganised and, in many cases, completely unregulated” – only compounds concerns.
When Australian uranium leaves our waters it effectively disappears from the radar. This is a profound concern for a fuel that can power either nuclear reactors or nuclear weapons. High-level Indian officials have stated that they need to source uranium from overseas in order to free up their own uranium for military purposes
No smooth passage to India for Australian uranium http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2012/10/18/3612800.htm DAVE SWEENEY, ABC 18 OCT 2012 PRIME MINISTER JULIA GILLARD is in India this week and amid the staged handshakes and solemn exchanges of signed papers. The uranium sales plan is being heavily promoted. But there is growing concern both here and in India about the implications of the move and the fast-tracking of nuclear-armed India into the global atomic club.
No doubt Julia Gillard will be employing the age-old tactic of highlighting a problem that no reasonable person could ignore and then seeking to ‘own’ the solution. Proponents of the sales deal point to the estimated 200 million Indians who do not have reliable access to electricity as a rationale for the sales deal. But to link Australian yellowcake with lights and cookers in remote Indian villages is to draw a very long bow.
Nuclear power is high cost and high risk. While the fuel is reasonably
cheap, the generation and transmission of energy is extremely
expensive and requires costly and centralised infrastructure. Nuclear
power is not a fast and flexible energy option and is poorly placed to
meet community needs. A simple analogy can be seen in relation to
communications where technology ‘leapfrogs’ are proving far more adept
at meeting human need.
In India and across Africa the demand for improved communication is
not being met by rolling out fixed phone lines. Rather than copper
cables and poles across the landscape, people increasingly have a
mobile phone in their pocket. The same is true of energy where
de-centralised renewable systems are faster, cheaper, more secure and
more adept at meeting community need.
If we really want to assist Indian communities who currently lack access to electricity – and we should – it would be far more effective to prioritise exporting Australian expertise in regional renewable energy systems. Nuclear generation currently provides a mere two per
cent of India’s energy needs and despite receiving less government
support, renewable energy in India already far out-performs and
out-produces nuclear power. Promoting renewable rather than
radioactive electricity would put the lights on but leave the geiger
Moreover, the admission this week from India’s own auditor that the
country’s nuclear industry is “dangerously unsafe, disorganised and,
in many cases, completely unregulated” – only compounds these
concerns. With uranium sales, history tells us that business as usual
is never enough – Australia’s national responsibilities must surely
extend beyond our own borders. In the shadow of Fukushima – a nuclear
crisis directly fuelled by Australian uranium – the evidence is clear
that nuclear power is a dirty and dangerous imposition, not a
When Australian uranium leaves our waters it effectively disappears from the radar. This is a profound concern for a fuel that can power either nuclear reactors or nuclear weapons. High-level Indian officials have stated that they need to source uranium from overseas in order to free up their own uranium for military purposes, despite
these clear comments there is continuing Australian complacency about
the real risk of diversion and proliferation: the spirit of ‘pig-iron
Bob’ lives on in another political generation.
India is a nuclear-weapons state that obtained this capacity by
breaching international treaties and agreements. It is currently
involved in a regional arms race with its bitter rival Pakistan and is
actively increasing its nuclear armoury. India has not not signed up
to the global Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – the best way to
stop the spread of the world’s worst weapons.
And recent weeks have seen a sharp rise in community resistance to
plans to start a nuclear reactor at Koodankulum in Tamil Nadu with
tens of thousands of fisher-folk and residents continuing the proud
Indian tradition of non-violent civil disobedience.
Last month, two protestors were shot dead by police, beatings and
arrests are routine and civil rights and legal groups have detailed
and condemned the heavy-handed state response. It is most unlikely
that these people will be celebrating the planned uranium sales deal.
This volatile political context needs to be addressed by the western
media as Julia Gillard blithely spruiks Australian uranium sales.
As home to around one third of the world’s uranium Australia has an
important role in the global nuclear debate. In the aftermath of
Fukushima we urgently need a genuine review of the costs and
consequences and the impacts and implications of our involvement in
the uranium trade.
From Kakadu to Kolkata we need Australian politicians to pay as much
attention to the actual danger signs as they do to the promised dollar
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