Caution urged on uranium sales to India

Caution urged on uranium sales to India

The government needs to consider greater safeguards and stronger diplomatic efforts before Australia sells uranium to India, a new report says.


The treaties committee report, tabled in parliament on Tuesday, said India should be encouraged to become a party to the comprehensive test ban treaty and separate its civil and military nuclear facilities.

Uranium should not be sold to India until it puts in place an independent nuclear regulator and best practice safety inspections of nuclear facilities, the report said.

Committee chairman, Liberal MP Wyatt Roy, said in the report there were some “significant risks” to selling uranium to India.

India was outside the “nuclear non-proliferation mainstream” and Australia should use all diplomatic steps to ensure it signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

There were weaknesses in the way India’s nuclear facilities are regulated “that jeopardise nuclear safety and security”.

“The committee has made a recommendation that the sale of uranium to India only commence when these weaknesses have been addressed,” Mr Roy said.

However, he said the committee had been satisfied Australian nuclear material in India could be accounted for and tracked.

The report found uranium sales to India could be between 1000 and 2000 tonnes and worth up to $225 million in export earnings by 2030.

The Mining Council estimated jobs in the industry could rise from 4300 to 8000.

Two Labor members of the committee said the full separation of India’s civil and military nuclear facilities and the setting up of a new independent watchdog should be done before the treaty is ratified.

The majority committee view was that these two matters should be addressed after ratification.

“We consider it essential that any nuclear agreement with India should be at least as rigorous as all the agreements Australia has concluded with other countries,” Labor’s Melissa Parke and Sue Lines wrote.

Greens senator Scott Ludlam said the deal should not go ahead.

“It puts the interest of a small and marginal industry ahead of global security,” he said.

Talks with India on uranium were first flagged under the Howard government but stalled under the Rudd Labor government, before the ALP changed its policy in December 2011.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard announced formal talks with India in October 2012 and the agreement was tabled in parliament in October 2014.

Labor MP and deputy chairman of the committee, Kelvin Thomson, said the report should act as an “orange light”, warning the government to tread carefully.

“The government will ignore these powerful recommendations, which come not only from opposition members but members of the government, at its peril and the peril of Australia’s reputation as a global citizen with a strong commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament,” Mr Thomson said.