Parliamentary Committee rejects uranium sales to Russia

\ParliamentaryFriends of the Earth today welcomed the release of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties' report on a uranium export agreement signed by John Howard and Vladimir Putin last September.

MEDIA RELEASE - SEPTEMBER 18, 2008
PARLIAMENTARY TREATIES COMMITTEE REJECTS URANIUM SALES TO RUSSIA

Friends of the Earth today welcomed the release of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties' report on a uranium export agreement signed by John Howard and Vladimir Putin last September.

The majority report, written by Committee chair Kelvin Thompson and other Labor members, concludes that the government should not ratify the agreement until a number of conditions have been met, the most important being the implementation of nuclear safeguards inspections in Russia, separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities, demonstrated compliance with Russia's disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), demonstrated resolution of the problem of nuclear theft and smuggling, and consideration of the ramifications of "recent political events affecting Russia" (read: Russia's invasion of Georgia).

FoE's national nuclear campaigner Dr Jim Green said: "The claim by the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office that Australia's "strict" safeguards conditions will "ensure" that Australia's uranium remains in peaceful use has been exposed for the lie that it is. The Safeguards Office conspicuously failed to provide any information to the Committee on the absence of safeguards inspections in Russia. It was left to Friends of the Earth to dig up information on safeguards in Russia, the conclusion being that there have been no inspections whatsoever since 2001, and there is no reason to believe that the current pattern of non-inspection will change. The Safeguards Office also misled the Committee in relation to the theft and smuggling of radioactive materials in Russia and will consider itself lucky to have escaped direct criticism in the report."

The Joint Standing Committee concluded that: "It is essential that actual physical inspection by the IAEA occurs at any Russian sites that may handle [Australian Obligated Nuclear Materials]. Further, the supply of uranium to Russia should be contingent upon such inspections being carried out."

Dr Green said: "If Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd intend to ratify the Howard/Putin agreement, they will need to argue that Russia is complying with its disarmament obligations under the NPT - even though Russia is doing no such thing. Russia's arsenal of over 14,000 nuclear weapons has an explosive yield equivalent to 200,000 Hiroshima bombs. The reduction in the number of nuclear weapons held by Russia is no comfort since, in Putin's words, Russia plans to make its nuclear arsenal "more compact but more effective". Once again demonstrating its attitude to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament norms and obligations, Russia threatened Poland with nuclear strikes following an August 20 agreement to host US missile defence bases in Poland."

"If the Rudd government ratifies the Howard/Putin agreement, it will have lost all credibility even before the formal launch of its International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament in October," Dr Green concluded.

Contact: Jim Green 0417 318368