Australia Allows Uranium Sales to India

Article excerpt

The Australian Labor Party on Dec. 4 endorsed a proposal by its leader, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, to end a ban on uranium sales to India. The 206-185 vote to lift the long-standing ban came at a party conference in Sydney.

For decades, India could not purchase uranium or most other nuclear goods from members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) because New Delhi is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and does not accept full-scope safeguards, which means that it does not open all its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, in 2008 the NSG, which includes Australia, voted to make an exception from its general rule and allow exports to India. (See ACT, October 2008.)

At a Nov. 15 press conference previewing the Labor meeting, Gillard said that, in light of the NSG decision, "for us to refuse to budge is all pain with no gain." Australia is a leading exporter of uranium.

Critics of the Labor decision argue that selling uranium would violate Australia's obligations under the Treaty of Rarotonga, which establishes a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the South Pacific. Article 4 of the treaty says that nuclear exports by treaty parties must be "subject to the safeguards required by Article III. …