Selling uranium to India would spell more damage than gains for Australia as it would raise the export revenue only marginally while giving out signals to nations like Japan and South Korea that Canberra was not serious on adhering to the non-proliferation treaty,a former diplomat has argued.
According to Richard Broinowski,a professor at Sydney University and a former diplomat to several countries like Vietnam,Korea,Mexico,the uranium sale may encourage other nations to develop nuclear weapons without necessarily fearing a cut-off of Australian supplies rather than follow the NPT.
“If there is an argument for uranium sales to India,it is that the damage has already been done to the NPT and the non-proliferation regime,and Australia might as well get in there and make a few bucks from selling uranium.
“But that argument has its faults,” he said.
He said that uranium sale would do very little to expand Australia’s export revenue – which helps explain why the Australian Uranium Association supports the government’s policy of prohibiting uranium sales to countries that have not signed the NPT.
“If Australia supplied one-fifth of India’s current demand,uranium exports would increase by a measly 1.8 per cent. Even if all reactors under construction or planned in India come on line,Australia’s uranium exports would increase by just 10 per cent,” he opined.
The climate change “benefits” would be equally underwhelming,resting as they do on the dodgy premise that Australian uranium would replace coal rather than simply replacing uranium from another source or replacing renewable energy sources,he said.
“Second,while the non-proliferation regime has certainly been damaged,there is no justification for Australia to damage it further.
“Few countries support the opening up of nuclear trade with countries that refuse to sign the NPT. The 118 countries of the Non Aligned Movement voiced objections during the NPT Review Conference in New York this year,” he wrote in ‘The Age’.
Referring to the US deal to open up civil nuclear trade with India,Broinowski said India made no concessions whatsoever during the deal and it would be naive to imagine Australia could win concessions from India that the US was unable to do.
“Proponents celebrated the expansion of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards achieved under the US-India deal. However,under India’s agreement with the IAEA,safeguards will be tokenistic and apply only to that part of the nuclear programme that India considers surplus to its military “requirements,” he said.
“Even in the unlikely event that a rigorous safeguards regime provided confidence that Australian uranium would not be used in India’s weapons programme,that would not undo the damage done to the NPT by opening up civil nuclear trade with non-NPT states.
“Nor would safeguards address another key problem: Australian uranium freeing up India’s limited domestic supplies for weapons production,” Broinowski added. He noted that proponents of the deal have resorted to the disingenuous argument that India’s “moratorium” on nuclear tests is a victory.
But the “moratorium” was already in place before the US-India negotiations began,and it is clearly no substitute for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,he added.