From IPPNW's Australian affiliate: coalition statement signed by MAPW

Released April 5, 2006

Endorsed by:
Friends of the Earth, Australia
Australian Conservation Foundation
Greenpeace Australia Pacific
Medical Association for the Prevention of War
Public Health Association of Australia
Queensland Conservation Council
Environment Centre of the Northern Territory
Arids Lands Environment Centre (Alice Springs)

(Contact: Dr. Jim Green, Friends of the Earth, 0417 318368,

Nuclear power is the only energy source with a direct and repeatedly demonstrated connection to the production of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Four or five countries have used supposedly peaceful nuclear programs to develop arsenals of nuclear weapons - Israel, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and possibly North Korea. The five 'declared' nuclear weapons states - the US, the UK, Russia, France, and China - routinely transfer personnel from their 'peaceful' nuclear programs to their WMD programs.

The contribution of ostensibly peaceful nuclear programs to WMD programs has underpinned strong and sustained public opposition to uranium mining and export in Australia:
* A Morgan Poll of 662 Australians in October 2005 found that support for uranium mining was at its lowest level since 1979, and that 70% of Australians oppose the establishment of any more uranium mines with just 23% in favour.
* A survey of 1020 Australians carried out last year by the International Atomic Energy Agency found that 56% considered the Agency's 'safeguards' inspection system to be ineffective.

The Australian Government's uranium export negotiations with the Chinese regime runs counter to this broad public opposition to an expansion of the uranium mining and export industry, and it also runs counter to the September 2005 SBS-commissioned Newspoll of 1200 Australians which found that 53% were opposed to uranium exports to China, with just 31% in favour.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has not categorically ruled out allowing uranium exports to India, which is not even a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

We call on the Australian Government to rule out uranium exports to China and India for the following reasons:


Inadequate IAEA Safeguards. The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) inspection program is chronically under-resourced, so it is highly unlikely that inspections would be sufficiently numerous or rigorous to provide confidence, let alone certainty, that Australian uranium was not being diverted to weapons production in China or India. IAEA Director-General Mohamed El Baradei described the inspection regime as "fairly limited" in a February 2005 speech.

As a nuclear weapons state, China is not subject to full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards and it is highly unlikely that a safeguards agreement with India would be more rigorous. Nuclear facilities using Australian uranium would only be subject to voluntary inspections, but even this is no simple matter since Australian uranium is indistinguishable from, and mixed with, uranium from elsewhere.

Australia's Meaningless Bilateral Agreements. Provisions in bilateral uranium export agreements between Australia and uranium customer countries have been gradually and repeatedly weakened since the basic framework was established in 1977 by the Fraser government. The provisions certainly do not guarantee that there will be no diversion of nuclear materials to WMD production. The provisions are in some cases meaningless. For example, Australian consent is required before reprocessing spent nuclear fuel produced using Australian uranium. But consent to reprocess has never once been withheld by any Australian government - even when it leads to the stockpiling of plutonium and the consequent regional tensions, as with Japan's enormous plutonium stockpile.

Nuclear technology is inherently dual use across so called 'civilian' nuclear power and nuclear weapons capabilities. Australia should rule out any new bilateral agreements for use of our uranium in uranium enrichment programs around the world, including in China or in India. Australia should not allow any of our exported uranium to be used by any country in the plutonium cycle, including reprocessing, MOX nuclear fuel, and breeder and proposed 'Generation 4' nuclear reactors that produce and rely on plutonium.


China's Nuclear Weapons Program. China's Communist regime maintains an active nuclear weapons program and refuses to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The 2002 US Nuclear Posture Review refers to China's "ongoing modernization of its nuclear and non nuclear forces". Last year, Zhu Chenghu, a general in the Chinese People's Liberation Army, said: "If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition onto the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons. We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all the cities east of Xian. Of course, the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese."

China's WMD Exports. The Chinese regime has a worrying record of military exports. In 2001, the CIA reported that China had provided missile technology to North Korea and Libya as well as "extensive support" to Pakistan's nuclear program. In 2003, the US government imposed trade bans on five Chinese firms for selling weapons technology to Iran.

Regional Tensions in North-East Asia. The Chinese regime promises military action in the event that Taiwan declares independence, and Washington promises a military reaction in which Australia could become embroiled. In those circumstances, it would be all but impossible to prevent Australian uranium (and by-products such as plutonium produced in power reactors) being used in Chinese nuclear weapons.

Uranium Displacement. China has insufficient uranium for both its civil and military nuclear programs, as the Chinese ambassador to Australia acknowledged in a December 2005 speech. Australian uranium sales would free up China's limited domestic reserves for the production of Weapons of Mass Destruction. As the Taipei Times editorialised on January 21, 2006: "Whether or not Aussie uranium goes directly into Chinese warheads - or whether it is used in power stations in lieu of uranium that goes into Chinese warheads - makes little difference. Canberra is about to do a deal with a regime with a record of flouting international conventions."

Human rights violations. China is not a signatory to many international human rights and labour protection conventions and treaties. According to Amnesty International, the Chinese regime is responsible for five out of every six executions carried out around the world. At least 2,468 executions were carried out in 2001 alone. Civil society safeguards such as whistleblower protection are absent. There are examples of persecution of nuclear industry whistleblowers, such as Sun Xiaodi, who was concerned about environmental contamination at a uranium mine in north-west China and was abducted in April 2005 immediately after speaking to a foreign journalist.

Media Censorship. The Chinese regime continues to tightly control the media. Of the 167 countries surveyed by Reporters Without Borders in 2005, China ranked 159th for press freedom, and China is the world's largest prison for journalists. If diversion of Australian uranium to China's WMD program took place, it is highly unlikely that the media would be able to uncover and report on the diversion.

Adverse Precedent. Uranium sales to China would set a poor precedent. Would Australia then sell uranium to all repressive, secretive, military states, or just some, or just China? Negotiations over uranium sales to China have already been used to justify proposed sales to India, and proposals to sell to India have led to suggestions that uranium might also be sold to other countries which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), namely Pakistan and Israel.

Public Safety & Environmental Concerns. There are other serious concerns in addition to the potential use of Australian uranium in Chinese nuclear weapons. Wang Yi, a nuclear energy expert at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, told the New York Times in January last year: "We don't have a very good plan for dealing with spent fuel, and we don't have very good emergency plans for dealing with catastrophe."


Non-signatory to the NPT. Proposed uranium exports to India must be rejected because India is a nuclear weapons state and is one of just three nations which has not ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The sales would undoubtedly weaken the international non-proliferation regime and would increase the risk of other countries pulling out of the NPT and developing arsenals of nuclear WMD - and doing so with the expectation that uranium could still be procured. As retired diplomat Professor Richard Broinowski notes: "The sale of Australian uranium to India would not just weaken our non-proliferation credentials - it would also signal to some of our major uranium customers, such as Japan and South Korea, that we do not take too seriously their own adherence to the NPT. They may as a result walk away from the treaty and develop nuclear weapons - against North Korea, China, or perhaps Russia - without necessarily fearing a cut-off of Australian supplies."

Regional tensions. India and Pakistan both tested a series of nuclear weapons in 1998. It is unwise and irresponsible to be supplying WMD feedstock in the form of uranium to the subcontinent given the history of regional tension and the active nuclear weapons programs in India and Pakistan.

Adverse precedent. If Australia sells uranium to India, there will be pressure to sell uranium to other nations which refuse to sign and ratify the NPT, such as Pakistan and Israel.

Uranium Displacement. As with China, India has limited domestic reserves of uranium so in addition to the risk of direct use of Australian uranium in Indian nuclear weapons, there is the risk and the expectation that Australian uranium sales would free up India's limited domestic reserves for the production of nuclear weapons.


The Australian Government should be working to strengthen the fragile international disarmament and non-proliferation regime, not to weaken it. Uranium exports to China or to India would unacceptably add to nuclear risks and to insecurity in our region, and are contrary to any proper exercise of Australia's international responsibilities. Australia should be looking to wind up and not to expand uranium mining and exports.

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