Nonproliferation Organization Blasts Australian Government Move to Sell Uranium to India

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Media Advisory

For Immediate Release: August 15, 2007
Press Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association, (202) 463-8270 x107 or Wade Boese, (202) 463-8270 x104

(Washington, D.C.): The Arms Control Association (ACA), a leading nuclear nonproliferation research and advocacy organization, strongly criticized the Australian government's decision to pursue the sale of uranium to India.

“This move flagrantly contradicts Australia's long standing international nuclear nonproliferation commitments and should be reconsidered and reversed,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of ACA.

"The reported Australian cabinet decision to sell uranium to India – which is not a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), has not signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and has refused to halt its production of plutonium for weapons – would violate Australia's past political and treaty commitments to the principle of full-scope international safeguards as a condition for supply of nuclear technology and material," said Kimball.

"This decision severely tarnishes Australia's otherwise good reputation as a leader in support of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament by all states," charged Kimball.

Under the South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, Australia has committed not to provide any "source or special fissionable material or equipment" to any non-nuclear-weapon state unless subject to the safeguards required by Article III.1 of the NPT. India is considered a non-nuclear-weapon state under the NPT. While India has agreed to allow partial safeguards on eight additional nuclear reactors by 2014, it rejects the comprehensive safeguards on all of its nuclear facilities and materials that are referred to in Article III of the NPT.

"Simply put, Australia has an international treaty obligation not to transfer uranium to India,” said Kimball. See <> for text of the South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, which is also known as the Treaty of Rarotonga.

"Contrary to Australian government claims, safeguards on a few additional Indian reactors provide little or no nonproliferation benefits,” Kimball argued. “Because India has refused to place all of its reactors, plutonium separation, and uranium enrichment plants under international safeguards, the safeguards on a few additional facilities will do nothing to slow or stop the continued production of fissile material for nuclear weapons by India," Kimball noted.

The United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia have publicly declared a moratorium on the production of fissile material for weapons. China is also believed to have halted fissile production for weapons.

"Australia claims that international and bilateral safeguards arrangements with India may help prevent the direct use of Australian uranium in Indian weapons. But absent action – and not simply promises – by India to stop the production of nuclear bomb material, the sale of uranium by states such as Australia would indirectly assist India's nuclear bomb program because it would free up its more limited domestic uranium supply for the purpose of producing more nuclear material for bombs,” Kimball said. “This is contrary to the purpose and intent of the NPT and will undoubtedly lead Pakistan to expand, not slow down, its capacity to produce nuclear bomb material," he added.

"Concerned members of the Australian public should call upon the government of Prime Minister Howard to demonstrate, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Australian uranium sales would not indirectly assist India's nuclear bomb program," urged Kimball.

"In 1992, Australia and other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group adopted guidelines restricting nuclear trade with states, such as India, that do not accept comprehensive IAEA safeguards. In 1995, Australia and the other members of the NPT endorsed the same policy as part of a package of decisions that allowed for the indefinite extension of the NPT," Kimball added. Paragraph 12 of the “Principles and objectives for nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament" Decision 2, of the 1995 NPT Extension Conference says that countries should not receive nuclear assistance unless they have made “internationally legally binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."

Australia is also obliged to respect United Nations Security Council Resolution 1172 of June 1998, which calls upon India (and Pakistan) to refrain from further nuclear testing, sign the CTBT, and stop the production of fissile material for weapons purposes. See <>. Adopted in the wake of India and Pakistan's tit-for-tat nuclear tests, the resolution also "encourages all States to prevent the export of equipment, materials or technology that could in any way assist programs in India or Pakistan for nuclear weapons."

"The sale of uranium to India and Australian support for a change in Nuclear Supplier Group rules to allow trade with India – absent any further commitment by India to reconsider the CTBT and a provision revoking the exemption if India resumes testing – would also make a mockery of Australia's leadership position on the entry-into-force of the CTBT," Kimball said.

Only two years ago, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer led an international conference in New York urging states that have not signed and ratified the CTBT to do so. On September 21, 2005, Downer told the conference: "Let me be clear - we welcome the continuing voluntary moratorium on weapons testing, but this cannot be a substitute for entry into force of the permanent and legally binding treaty."

Speaking of the states that are holding up CTBT entry into force by either not signing or ratifying, Downer added: "We have over the years heard many reasons as to why this is so. The time for excuses is past. The time for them is to act."

"The time for excuses is past and the time for action is indeed now," Kimball said. He added, "Australia must not squander what leverage it has to prompt CTBT hold-out states such as India to sign and ratify the CTBT, and to get the United States and China, which have signed but not ratified, to do so. Current U.S. laws would require the United States to terminate nuclear trade with India if it resumes testing and allow the return of all U.S. nuclear equipment and material. Australia should, in the very least, establish similar requirements.”

"Australia can and must do better. Rather than reverse its own national policies against nuclear trade with NPT non-members and ignore global treaties and standards on nuclear nonproliferation, Australia's leaders should refrain from selling uranium to India until it exercises greater nuclear weapons restraint and meets the same nonproliferation standards expected of other nuclear-armed countries," Kimball urged.

For additional information on the controversial proposal for engaging in nuclear trade with India see < >.