Australian news, and some related international items

Tough scrutiny now needed on uranium deal between Australia and India

Doubts over uranium deal between Australia and India, The Age December 9, 2014 Daniel Flitton The treaty to sell uranium to India will face tough scrutiny after the former chief atomic watchdog warned the deal lacked safeguards to ensure Australia did not inadvertently fuel India’s nuclear bombs.

The treaties committee of Parliament must endorse the deal, signed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott in September, before uranium exports can start.

But John Carlson, the former chief of Australia’s nuclear safeguards organisation, has told the committee India’s nuclear weapons program is expanding and has complex links to civilian reactors.

The warning is likely to rattle Labor’s lukewarm support for sales, the party having opposed uranium exports to India initially and scotched a Howard-era proposal……….

In a detailed submission to the committee, Mr Carlson said that  under the proposed deal Australia could not definitively track uranium used in India’s nuclear program 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.

India is estimated to have between 90 and 110 nuclear weapons and has refused to sign international disarmament treaties. 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.

Labor MP Kelvin Thomson said the 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……..

several other submissions, including one from  Ron Walker, a former governor of the International Atomic Energy Agency, expressed concern.

The committee is expected to hold public hearings before reporting in February or March.

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said last month that any exports to India must be with the highest possible level of safeguards.

Mr Carlson 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.

He said there were good reasons for concluding a nuclear co-operation agreement with India, “but not this agreement”……..

December 10, 2014 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international

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