MAC: Mines and Communities

Australian Panel Approves Uranium Deal with China

Published by MAC on 2006-12-07

Australian Panel Approves Uranium Deal with China


7th December 2006

CANBERRA - Australia will sell uranium to China from next year after a parliamentary committee approved an export deal on Wednesday with a call for tighter international safeguards.

Australia, which holds 40 per cent of the world's recoverable uranium, reached agreement in April to begin exporting uranium to China in a deal that should double annual revenue from exports of the nuclear fuel to US$1 billion.

Lawmakers on the parliamentary treaty committee, who needed to approve the deal, concluded it was in Australia's national interest.

China is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, unlike India, which has tried, but so far failed, to win approval to buy Australian uranium.

"The safeguards agreement offers adequate assurance that China will use Australian uranium and technology for peaceful purposes only," committee chairman Andrew Southcott said.

China, with its huge population and buoyant economy, has a huge appetite for energy. It is banking on nuclear power to meet its needs and cut greenhouse emissions from fossil fuels.

Despite its huge reserves, Australia accounts for only 23 percent of global uranium production, in part because of mining bans associated with fears over of the safety of nuclear waste and proliferation.

The country currently exports uranium to 36 countries under strict conditions ensuring its peaceful use.

Another parliamentary report on Monday called for the government to drop restrictions on uranium mining, saying fears about its safety were misplaced.

Southcott's committee called for Australia to give more money and backing to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to strengthen on-site inspections in China.

Committee members also called for inspection of conversion plants where uranium is enriched to be declared mandatory by the IAEA and the five declared nuclear weapons powers -- Britain, the United States, China, France and Russia.

The deal with China will also pave the way for Australia to share civilian nuclear technology.


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