Australia-Russia nuclear cooperation agreement sparks controversies

15:05, November 12, 2010      

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Australian environmentalists on Friday criticized Russia's nuclear safety record after Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Australia would ratify the nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia.

Gillard who is in Seoul for G20 summit said the agreement will allow Australia to supply uranium to Russia for civil nuclear power purposes, and will be used solely for peaceful, non-military purposes.

However, Greens Leader Bob Brown on Friday condemned the move, expressing concerns that Russia will use the uranium to build nuclear warheads

In 2008, a parliamentary committee had urged Australia not to sell uranium to Russia until there was proof Russia's military and civilian nuclear industries were not linked.

Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear free campaigner David Noonan slammed the move, saying it was contrary to the recommendations of a parliamentary committee on treaties.

He said the federal government's decision to sell uranium to Russia puts the interest of one contested industry ahead of Australia's national interest and global responsibilities.

Noonan added that Australia cannot hope to be a leader on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, while spreading nuclear risks by trying to become the world's largest uranium supplier.

Australian chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Tilman Ruff, said Russia had the world's worst record of nuclear accidents and radioactive contamination of the environment.

"With an arsenal of around 12,000 nuclear weapons, Russia remains a block to global expectations for nuclear disarmament," Ruff told Australia Associated Press on Friday. "We cannot be confident either now or in the future that Australian uranium exported to Russia could not end up in a Russian or a terrorist nuclear weapon."

Industry group, the Australian Uranium Association has unsurprisingly welcomed Gillard's decision, saying that new market opportunities would now open up to Australian uranium producers as a result of the decision.

Meanwhile, opposition energy and resources spokesman Ian Macfarlane called on the federal government to go further and allow uranium exports to India for electricity generation.

Australia has around 40 percent of the world's uranium reserve.

Source: Xinhua


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