Australia’s uranium deal with India is condemned by John Carlson, former head of Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation

October 1, 2014

See below a very strong critique of the Australia-India nuclear cooperation agreement from John Carlson, former head of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, who worked tirelessly for many years to weaken safeguards standards …

It is not good enough to simply say that we trust India because it has an ‘impeccable’ non-proliferation record (and India’s record in any case is not ‘impeccable’).The reporting procedures are not optional; they are fundamental to Australia’s ability to confirm that our safeguards conditions are being met. They have long applied to close and trusted partners such as the US, the EU, Japan and South Korea. There is absolutely no case to waive them for India.

Is the Abbott Government abandoning Australia’s nuclear safeguards standards for India? John Carlson AM is a Nonresident Fellow at the Lowy Institute. He was Director General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office and its predecessor the Australian Safeguards Office from 1989 to 2010. Lowy Interpreter,  1 October 2014 http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/?COLLCC=737147385& 

The signing last month of a civil nuclear cooperation agreement between Australia and India has been greeted as an important step towards closer relations between the two countries, as well as bringing India into the global nuclear energy mainstream. These are worthy objectives, but not at any cost.

Now that the text of the agreement has been quietly made public, some substantial departures from Australia’s current safeguards conditions are evident. These suggest, disturbingly, that Australia may be unable to keep track of what happens to uranium supplied to India.

In this post I will explain what is wrong with the Australia-India nuclear cooperation agreement and why it appears that the Abbott Government may be abandoning Australia’s longstanding safeguards requirements for India. In a subsequent post I will explain what can and should be done about it.

Negotiations for the agreement began under the Gillard Government in 2012, after Labor came around to an in-principle acceptance of uranium exports to India provided they were properly safeguarded. This was always going to be contentious, primarily because of Australia’s longstanding policy against supplying uranium to countries outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

It is short-sighted and self-defeating to make the agreement even more contentious by compromising Australia’s safeguards standards. This will jeopardise bipartisan support for the agreement, raising the prospect of future governments suspending exports under it. It will also expose the agreement to potential legal challenge under the 1987 Safeguards Act, and it risks re-opening the wider uranium debate in Australia. None of this is in the interests of the Australian or Indian governments or of the nuclear industry in either country.

Two documents are critically important here. First, let’s look more closely at the agreement itself. It departs in the following ways from Australia’s standard requirements on countries receiving our uranium:

  •  Consent to reprocessing – reprocessing, involving separation of plutonium from spent fuel, is the most sensitive stage of the nuclear fuel cycle. To date Australia’s consent to reprocessing has been limited to the EU and Japan, and has been given on what is called a programmatic basis, i.e. Australia has approved the specific ‘downstream’ facilities using separated plutonium and the purposes involved. In this agreement, however, Australia has effectively given consent in advance for India to reprocess in accordance with an ‘arrangements and procedures’ document India concluded with the US in 2010. This covers safeguards at two reprocessing plants which India plans to build, but includes only a vague reference to management of plutonium, and nothing corresponding to programmatic consent;

 

  • Right of return – Australia’s standard conditions include a right for Australia to require the return of material and items if there is a breach of an agreement. This agreement contains no such provision;

 

  • Fallback safeguards – Australia’s standard condition is that, if for any reason IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards cease to apply, the parties are to establish safeguards arrangements that conform with IAEA safeguards principles and procedures and provide equivalent assurance. This agreement requires only that the parties consult and agree on ‘appropriate verification measures’, a vague term readily open to differing interpretations;

 

  • Settlement of disputes – Australia’s standard requirement is for negotiation, backed by an arbitration process. This agreement refers only to negotiation, with no mechanism for resolving deadlock.

 

Even more consequential than the agreement itself may be a second, follow-on text that the public may never get to see, a so-called ‘administrative arrangement’ which sets out the working procedures for the agreement. Officials are presumably working on this at present. The key question here is, will this administrative arrangement enable Australia to track and account for the nuclear material that is subject to the agreement with India?

The administrative arrangement should set out detailed procedures for identifying and accounting for the specific nuclear material to which the agreement applies. This includes not only the initially-supplied Australian uranium, but all subsequent generations of material derived from it, especially plutonium. If it is not possible to apply the agreement’s provisions to specific material, the agreement will be meaningless.

 

To be effective, these procedures need to include a requirement for regular reports to Australia showing the flow of material under the agreement through the nuclear fuel cycle in India. Australia needs to be able to track and account for this ‘Australian-obligated nuclear material’. This is both a proper public expectation and a legal requirement under section 51 of the Safeguards Act.

 

Bipartisan support for, and public acceptance of, uranium exports is based on the assurance that Australia is able to track our material and determine that our conditions are being met. Australia’s safeguards requirements were developed by the Fraser Government, are in line with international standards, and have been applied under all our safeguards agreements ever since – today we have 22 agreements covering 40 countries.

 

Disturbingly, it is reported that Indian officials will not provide Australia with reports accounting for material under the agreement, and that the Abbott Government seems prepared to waive this requirement for India. The same issue has arisen under India’s arrangements with the US and Canada. In response, Washington has held firm: the US-India administrative arrangement has been outstanding for several years; reportedly the US is insisting on receiving tracking information and India is refusing.

In the case of Canada, the Harper Government gave in to India, an outcome described as the ‘meltdown of Canadian non-proliferation policy’. The Canadian Government refuses to reveal the details of its arrangement. If Australia follows Canada down this path, it will put the wrong kind of pressure on the US, the EU and Japan in their own dealings with India.

 

Apparently India considers that its acceptance of IAEA safeguards should be good enough. But India’s refusal to provide reports on Australian supplied material calls into question whether India will in fact identify and account for this material, as required by the agreement. If India will account for this material, the additional effort in providing reports to Australia should cause India no problem. However if it will not account for the material, India will be in breach of the agreement.

 

Why is India being so difficult on this issue? India has an expanding nuclear weapon program. It has not fully separated its military and civilian nuclear programs and some facilities are still dual-purpose. India’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA does not impose the same restrictions as bilateral agreements in areas such as reprocessing, higher enrichment, retransfers to third countries, research and development or the production of tritium (which has uses in nuclear weapons).

 

If India succeeds in delinking foreign-obligated nuclear material from individual bilateral agreements, making it impossible to identify which batch of material is covered by which agreement, then India could work a ‘pea and thimble’ trick in which no supplier could tell whether their material was being used contrary to bilateral conditions. The mere possibility of this is sufficient to call into question India’s commitment to observing bilateral agreements.

 

Without proper reporting, Australia has no way of knowing whether India is in reality meeting its obligations to identify and account for all the material that is subject to the agreement, and to apply Australia’s safeguards conditions to this material. It is not good enough to simply say that we trust India because it has an ‘impeccable’ non-proliferation record (and India’s record in any case is not ‘impeccable’).The reporting procedures are not optional; they are fundamental to Australia’s ability to confirm that our safeguards conditions are being met. They have long applied to close and trusted partners such as the US, the EU, Japan and South Korea. There is absolutely no case to waive them for India.

AREVA to get 51% interest, later up to 80%, in uranium deal with Toro Energy

October 1, 2014

AREVA-Medusa1Toro signs NT deal with AREVA https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/business/wa/a/25132512/toro-signs-nt-deal-with-areva/ The West AustralianSeptember 29, 2014 Toro Energy has signed a farm-in and joint venture agreement with French uranium and nuclear power giant AREVA in the Northern Territory.

The agreement covers a 2292sqkm tenement package in the Wiso Basin, southwest of Tennant Creek.

“Toro believes that its relatively unexplored Wiso Basin tenement package is ideally placed for exploring for a sandstone-hosted uranium mineralising system of a size and scale not unlike those found in Kazakhstan, where six of the world’s top 15 producing uranium mines are currently in operation,” the company said in a statement.

Toro’s managing director Dr Vanessa Guthrie said the company was excited to have AREVA participate in a substantial exploration portfolio at a time when few companies were actively exploring for uranium in Australia.

“We look forward to adding value to our NT exploration targets through a long and beneficial relationship with one of the world’s most respected uranium groups,” she said. Under the terms of the agreement, AREVA will spend $500,000 within two years of to earn a 51 per cent interest in the joint venture properties.

Upon reaching 51 per cent, AREVA will then have the option to spend another $1.5 million over four years for a further 29 per cent interest for a total 80 per cent stake.

Drilling is expected to begin in the first half of 2015.

Toro shares closed steady at 9.1 cents.

Listen up, Climate Sceptics: researchers find Australia’s 2013 heatwave due to global warming

October 1, 2014

heat_waveAustralia’s 2013 heatwave due to climate change, researchers conclude http://www.theage.com.au/environment/australias-2013-heatwave-due-to-climate-change-researchers-conclude-20140930-10o1sj.html September 30, 2014   National political reporter Record temperatures in Australia in 2013 were almost certainly caused by man-made climate change, five separate studies have found.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University and the University of NSW have concluded it is “virtually impossible” that the heatwaves that hit Australia in 2013 would have occurred were it not for carbon emissions caused by human activity.

The reports have been published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society as part of a global project examining the impact of climate change on extreme weather.

The results, which are the strongest statement yet on the impact of climate change on Australia’s weather patterns, are a wake-up call for the Abbott government a week after it was criticised for failing to take beefed-up emissions reduction targets to a special summit of world leaders in New York.

Five teams of researchers examined the heat that baked Australia for much of 2013, leading to the hottest day, month, spring and summer since records began.

They concluded that the record temperatures for the whole of that year would almost certainly not have occurred without man-made climate change and that the chance of heatwaves occurring was more than 2000 times greater because of human-caused climate change.

Professor David Karoly, one of the authors, said the results mark the first time that researchers had concluded that a specific weather event couldn’t or most likely couldn’t have occurred in Australia without the increase in greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity.

“The Prime Minister last year said that studies hadn’t been done and the CSIRO cautioned against attributing individual extreme weather events to climate change,” Professor Karoly said.

“Now the studies have been done and the results are very clear.”

The teams of researchers used a variety of computer-based simulations that modelled 20th and early 21st century temperatures.

One set of models factored in natural variations in climate and human influences on climate, while another set showed what temperatures would have looked like without man-made climate change.

Out of 12,500 simulated years, only one result in the latter group produced temperatures higher than those seen in Australia in 2005 – the hottest year before 2013 – and none as hot as 2013.

“There was an increase in the frequency of heatwaves in 2013 and the intensity of heatwaves due to climate change,” Professor Karoly said “It was three times the frequency and two times the intensity.

Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Tony Abbott predicts restart of expanded Olympic Damn uranium mine

October 1, 2014

Abbott-liarHope of Olympic Dam mine expansion rekindled  THE AUSTRALIAN  OCTOBER 01, David Crowe Political Correspondent Canberra   TONY Abbott has talked of a “likely” expansion of the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia to deflect concerns over job losses at the state’s manufacturers, signalling the government’s hopes for an investment of up to $28 billion.

The Prime Minister told a meeting of Coalition colleagues to expect a “substantial ­expansion” of BHP Billiton’s project in the months and years ahead, as the company examines ways to ­extract the vast copper reserves. BHP has offered no sign it is ready to reverse its August 2012 decision to shelve the mine expansion because of falling commodity prices and the cost of ­removing huge amounts of earth to get to the ­reserves……. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/industrial-relations/hope-of-olympic-dam-mine-expansion-rekindled/story-fn59noo3-1227075708565?nk=3c08d15e995839925656215badf65786

 

Nuclear and Climate News This Week

September 29, 2014

a-cat-CANAUSTRALIA

As always, the silence in Australia about nuclear issues belies the truth: the Abbott government remains firmly pro nuclear. According to Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane, nuclear energy is “off the table”. But it’s well and truly there, under the table, in the new Energy White Paper Green Paper 2014 (confusing isn’t it – that title – means that it is not the final White Paper).  And – the government has been duplicitous, pretending that Friends of the Earth Australia supports nuclear power – actually using FOE in its pro nuclear section!

Nuclear security. While pontificating about terror threats,  Abbott quietly lessens the security at Lucas Heights nuclear power plant.  As the Americans say - “Go figure!”  Police surrounded it the other day – it was a false alarm, but shows how jittery they are about the nuclear reactor as a terrorist target.

Climate change. Ha ha – climate change denialism is so rife in Australia’s Abbott government, that they’re not able to use climate change as an argument for nuclear power. (It’s  a spurious argument, but the lying and immoral nuclear lobby is using it extensively world-wide, at present – having run out of other arguments). The new Energy White Paper is just another blueprint for Quarry Australia. 

Australia distinguished itself by being the country of scorn, at the UN climate Change meeting in New York last week. Only Canada can rival us for being internationally on the nose about climate change inaction.  I admit that I had a nice moment of schadenfreude, seeing our Foreign Misnister speak her weasel words to an empty UN conference room.

On the home front, Australians participated magnificently in the global People’s Climate March ,  Melbourne kicked off first, then rallies in many cities and towns across the nation.

Renewable Energy.  Later in the week, rallies to keep the Renewable Energy Target (RET) were held in many areas, with protests embarrassing politicians right at their offices. Several highly reputable national organisations wrote to Abbott urging the importance of keeping the RET as it is.

Meanwhile, despite the lobbying success of the fossil fuel utilities to get Abbott to crush the renewables industries. – well- those industries are still happening! New solar businesses for Melbourne and Moree. Good predictions for our solar market. ANU and ClimateWorks show the way to 50% renewable energy by 2050

INTERNATIONAL

Climate Change. The People’s Climate March in New York, and in cities world-wide was a huge success. Political leaders also gathered at UN for the climate Change meeting.  BUT – a note of caution. The very powerful nuclear lobbyimmediately  used mainstream media to push nuclear as the climate solution. And – worse – President Obama’s proposed carbon rules count nuclear power as a clean, low-carbon energy option, and include subsidies, incentives and financial backstops for nuclear power.

Big businesses are becoming aware of the need for climate action. Rockefellers are dumping oil and investing in renewables.  Still the Koch brothers use their massive wealth against climate action, and the fossil fuel utilities fight back, with successful lobbying.

Japan. It‘s doubtful that Japan’s nuclear reactors will ever restart.

Fukushima. Secrecy and poor working conditions in the nuclear plant cleanup.  TEPCO dumps their failed plan for an ice wall to contain radiation. The radioactive waste problem in the prefecture persists, clean-up  is slow and very expensive.

USA. Obama raises the permissable levels of radiation in drinking water!  Is USA again using depleted uranium weapons in Middle East?

Russia  – with the Ukraine crisis, things are getting messy in regard to Russia’s nuclear export business in Europe.

Finland. doing a murky deal with Russia’s nuclear corporation Rosatom – secret, full of problems, and may never be completed.

South Africa. Lots of problems in the government’s secret nuclear deal with Russia.

New book. Crisis Without End , Much awaited report  from the 2013 New York Symposium The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe

Abbott govt pretends that Friends of the Earth supports nuclear power

September 29, 2014

to Energy White Paper Taskforce
Department of Industry ,

from D Jim Green

The White Paper misrepresents Friends of the Earth in relation to nuclear power and I am seeking immediate clarification on a couple of points.

The WP states: “However, the relative safety of nuclear power is reflected in a 2013 study commissioned by Friends of the Earth, which concluded that, “overall the safety risks associated with nuclear power appear to be more in line with lifecycle impacts from renewable energy technologies, and significantly lower than for coal and natural gas per MWh of supplied energy.”


text-half-truthQuestion 1:
Why does the WP not specify that the study was commissioned by Friends of the Earth UK?

Question 2: Why does the WP fail to note that the commissioned paper raised multiple objections to nuclear power, and that FoE UK retained its anti-nuclear policies as a result of the review process, e.g. from the article below  ‘The non-nuclear energy pathway that Friends of the Earth advocates is credible …’
http://www.foe.co.uk/news/nuclear_40884

Please provide immediate answers to the above questions since the misrepresentation is a matter of great concern.

Please also advise if the Department or the Minister will immediately issue a media release correcting the mirepresentation. Alternatively, will the Department put a note on the relevant webpage noting that the WP fails to specify that the Friends of the Earth group in question is FoE UK and that FoE UK retained its anti-nuclear policies as a result of the review process.

Jim Green
——————————————–
Jim Green B.Med.Sci.(Hons.), PhD
National nuclear campaigner – Friends of the Earth, Australia

Dear Dr Green

Thank you for your email to the Energy White Paper Taskforce regarding the citation of the Tyndall Centre report.

To clarify, the paper released is the interim Green Paper, which is the basis for consultation on policy issues. Submissions received until 4 November will help inform the development of the Energy White Paper.  We expect to release the Energy White Paper later this year.

On the referencing of the report, we note that the quotation is accurate, and the footnote referencing provides enough detail to clarify that the report is based on a UK analysis, and allows for easy access to the online report in full, including the report origins and relevant disclaimers, as would be normal practice.

We acknowledge your preference that the report be linked to Friends of the Earth UK more explicitly in text, rather than through accessing the commissioning and disclaimer detail of the report itself. Given that concern, should the reference be used in the Energy White Paper, we will ensure that the body of our text includes the distinction. We would appreciate your guidance as to whether the preference is to use UK, or the full ‘England, Wales and Northern Ireland’ as per the report cover.

Regards

Energy White Paper Taskforce
Department of Industry

GPO Box 9839, Canberra ACT 2601
Email: ewp@industry.gov.au
Internet: www.ewp.industry.gov.au

Abbott govt still keen for nuclear power, as their White Paper shows

September 29, 2014
Energy White Paper
Green Paper 2014
to inform preparation of a White Paper

Attachment 3: Nuclear energy issues p. 71 ………– In 2013, the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics found that, over the projection period to 2050,  nuclear remains cost-competitive with both renewable and non-renewable technologies on a levelised cost of energy basis. …….

The IAEA Nuclear Safety Action Plan, endorsed  unanimously in September 2011 by the IAEA’s member states, defines a programme of work to strengthen the global nuclear safety framework.
Nuclear power plants are also designed to be safe in their operation and resilient to any malfunction or
accident. The nuclear power industry globally has been developing and improving reactor technology for
more than five decades. Advanced reactors now being built have simpler designs, which reduce capital
cost, are more fuel-efficient, and inherently safer. Generation III+, III++ and IV full-scale reactors, and
Small Modular Reactors currently under development, incorporate passive safety features that require no
active controls or operational intervention to avoid accidents in the event of malfunction, and may
instead rely on gravity, natural convection, or resistance to high temperatures.
SMRs Australia
At all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, individuals, society and the environment must be adequately
protected against radiological hazards. For radioactive waste, these obligations are underpinned in the
Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste
Management, to which Australia is a signatory…….
There is a worldwide consensus amongst technical experts that spent fuel and high level waste can be
appropriately disposed of in deep geological repositories. Finland and Sweden are leading the way with
this work and have made significant progress towards opening their deep geological repositories.
A full spent fuel / high level waste strategy should be included as part of any consideration for nuclear
power or fuel generation.
Non-proliferation
Australia is a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which aims to
prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to foster the peaceful uses of nuclear
energy, and to further the goal of disarmament. The Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office
regulates physical protection and IAEA safeguards requirements on nuclear material, equipment, and
activities in Australia.
The non-proliferation regime has been remarkably successful and has helped to slow proliferation……http://www.ewp.industry.gov.au/sites/prod2.ewp.industry.gov.au/files/egp/energy_green_paper.pdf

Even THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper now recognises the decline of the nuclear industry

September 29, 2014

nukes-sad-Nuclear’s fortunes on the wane THE AUSTRALIAN SEPTEMBER 29, 2014 Robin Bromby Business columnist
Sydney :……….now along comes some disquieting analysis of the nuclear electricity story. Normally, we would have seized on the annual report during the week fromManhattan Corp (MHC), which has the Ponton uranium project in Western Australia, and which coincided with yet another rise in the spot uranium price, up $US2.50 a pound to $US36.50/lb. Executive chairman Alan Eggers writes that the uranium sector has been dominated by “negative industry sentiment, falling supply and lacklustre demand among buyers of nuclear fuel”. He then outlines a reasonably cheerful outlook, and one to which Pure Speculation has been an adherent.

Until we read another report written by eight European and Japanese heavyweight thinkers in the field, headed by Paris-based Mycle Schneider. Their World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2014 has a stark and simple message: “The nuclear industry is in ­decline”.

There are 388 operating reactors around the world, 50 fewer than in 2002. Installed capacity is back to where it was 20 years ago.

The nuclear share of the world’s power generation declined from its peak of 19.6 per cent in 1996 to 10.8 per cent in 2013. In terms of revenue, nuclear now accounts for a lower percentage than in 1984.

In all, there are 67 “current” ­nuclear reactor projects, which sounds impressive until the report explains that eight of those reactors have been listed as “under construction” for more than 20 years; at least 49 have encountered construction delays, some for several years, and for the first time Chinese projects have also been delayed; for the remaining 18 reactors, either construction began within the past five years or the reactors have not yet reached projected start-up dates.

“Delays have occurred in the development of the nuclear programs for most of the more advanced newcomer countries, including Bangladesh, Jordan, Lithuania, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Vietnam,” the report adds……..http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/opinion/nuclears-fortunes-on-the-wane/story-fnciihm9-1227073165703

Workers’ conditions at Fukushima nuclear plant very bad, under a veil of secrecy

September 29, 2014

Fukushima Worker: “All sorts of troubles going on in plant”; Officials won’t tell public what really happens — People should worry, it’s not under control — Employees wear disguises over fear of retaliation — Reporter: Tour of plant “was very strange… feels completely dead… not many people” (VIDEO) http://enenews.com/fukushima-worker-all-sorts-troubles-going-inside-plant-officials-arent-disclosing-problems-public-im-concerned-safety-employees-wear-disguises-fear-retaliation-plant-control-people-be-worried-vi?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29

NHK
, Sept. 24, 2014 (at 2:15 in): [A Fukushima Daiichi worker’s attorney] warns that the current system could endanger the entire decommissioning process… “Tepco should be held accountable for turning a blind eye. It needs to improve labor conditions, otherwise the situation will make it impossible to secure enough workers to deal with the nuclear accident.” >>Watch the video here

The Guardian, Sept. 9, 2014 (emphasis added):Fukushima fallout continues… [There's an] unprecedented attempt by four Fukushima Daiichi workers to sue the utility for unpaid wages… [T]he four men… wore masks in court for fear of reprisals from their employers… “A year ago, the prime minister told the world that Fukushima was under control. But that’s not the case,” Tsuguo Hirota told Reuters… “It’s becoming a place for amateurs only, and that has to worry anyone who lives near the plant.”… “My health could suffer… I believe there are many people who can’t speak out about this kind of problem,” one of the workers told public broadcaster NHK.

Time Magazine correspondent Hannah Beech, Sept. 7, 2014: Just to get into the plant it –again — it’s like a Hollywood movie… What was very strange about walking into this place is that it feels completely dead. You don’t see that many people moving around. And those people that you do see, there’s not a palpable sense of urgency, but you realize that the work that they’re doing is so important. And they may not be getting the full of backing that they should to be able to do this. >> Full interview here

NPR, March 11, 2014: About 100 out of the 4,000 people working in the plant every day are TEPCO employees. The rest are subcontractors… Workers [are barred from] speaking to the media… I met a TEPCO worker who was on the job when the quake and tsunami hit… and talked in his car… on the condition that we not identify him and disguise his voice. He says it’s well known at the plant that shoddy work is being done… Many problems inside the Fukushima plant go unreported… The worker says that the Japanese government now needs to step in and guarantee the welfare and safety of all the workers…

TEPCO employee at Fukushima Daiichi (at 2:45 in): I’m concerned about my safety… There are things they feel they don’t have to disclose. There are all sorts of troubles going oninside the plant.

Full interview with the anonymous Fukushima worker here http://enenews.com/fukushima-worker-all-sorts-troubles-going-inside-plant-officials-arent-disclosing-problems-public-im-concerned-safety-employees-wear-disguises-fear-retaliation-plant-control-people-be-worried-vi?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29

Tony Abbot unaware? or in denial over India’s unsafe nuclear power system

September 9, 2014
India-uranium1Despite assurances of ‘peaceful purposes’, a uranium export deal between Australia and India has serious nuclear security implications. http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/09/09/comment-old-mistakes-new-delhi-australian-irresponsibility-and-indian-uraniumBy Dave Sweeney 9 SEP 2014 
The recent Australian uranium sales deal with India is a further slide in a radioactive race to the bottom that reflects a disturbing retreat from reason and responsibility. During his time in India Tony Abbott repeatedly said that India has an ‘impeccable’ military nuclear non-proliferation record and repeatedly refused to answer questions about serious deficiencies in India’s civil nuclear sector.

In the absence of evidence Mr Abbott was reduced to white flannelled cliché declaring that Australia and India trust each other on issues like uranium safeguards because of ‘the fundamentally ethical principle that every cricketer is supposed to assimilate – play by the rules and accept the umpire’s decision’. Seriously.

Despite assurances of ‘peaceful purposes’, this deal has serious nuclear security implications. Even if all goes well, and in the shadow of Fukushima that is a big assumption, it will free up India’s domestic uranium stocks for military use and do nothing to advance Indian non-proliferation or reduce the continuing tension with nuclear rival Pakistan.

The sale of uranium to India, a nuclear armed nation that is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nor subject to full international nuclear safeguards but is engaged in an active nuclear weapons expansion program, is also in direct conflict with Australia’s obligations under the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty.

While the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is intent on expanding India’s civil and military nuclear ambitions, large question marks remain over the adequacy of safety and security arrangements covering India’s nuclear sector. In 2012 the Indian Auditor General released a damning report warning of a ‘Fukushima or Chernobyl-like disaster if the nuclear safety issue is not addressed’.

This frank assessment came from India’s own senior officials. Fast forward to 2014 and the issues identified by the Auditor General have not been addressed and there is no certainty they ever will be. The safety of India’s nuclear reactors remains shaky, the sectors regulation and governance deficient and the costs of errors extraordinary.

Tony Abbott’s visit to India came hot on the heels of an Australian visit from the former Japanese PM Naoto Kan, who was in Australia visiting Aboriginal people affected by uranium mining in the NT and taking his story directly to Canberra.

Mr Kan was Prime Minister in the early days of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a continuing crisis directly fuelled by Australian uranium. As the man tasked with overseeing the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster and deciding whether to evacuate twenty five million people from greater Tokyo Mr Kan’s message was clear: Australia and world needs to “reduce dependence on nuclear power” and fully embrace renewables.

In the context of the Indian sales deal Mr Kan’s comments have great significance. If Japan, the world’s third largest economy and a nation steeped in technology and systems could not control the atomic genie, it bodes poorly for the application of this technology in other countries. With Australia’s renewable energy expertise and resources we would be superbly placed to keep Indian village lights on while ensuring the Geiger counter stays off.

Along with Mr Kan’s cautionary tale, another of Australia’s controversial uranium customers is providing a stark lesson in the need for prudence with uranium sales. Speaking at a patriotic youth camp near Moscow recently Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted that Russia remains one of the largest nuclear powers in the world, stating: “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers….Russia’s partners … should understand it’s best not to mess with us.”

In the shadow of Fukushima instead of opening up new uranium sales in increasingly insecure and conflict-prone regions we should tread more carefully with our uranium supplies.

Uranium is not just another mineral. It fuels nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons and it all becomes nuclear waste. As home to around a third of the worlds’ uranium supply Australia’s decisions matter and this is an important moment to comprehensively re-consider the domestic and international costs and consequences of our uranium sales.

Tony Abbott has no excuse or mandate to put the promise of small time corporate profit ahead of the reality of severe and sustained human and environmental radioactive risk.

It’s just not cricket.

Dave Sweeney is the nuclear free campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation.


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