MAPW Presidents (past and present) condemn Australian sales of uranium to China

Released April 5, 2006

Doctors who have served as President of the Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia) over the past 25 years have expressed their grave concern at the deal signed this week between Australia and China allowing for uranium to be exported to this nuclear weapons state. The main points of concern include:

China’s nuclear weapons program:
China currently has approximately 400 nuclear warheads. China has signed and ratified the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, under which it is obliged to work towards and achieve nuclear disarmament. China and the other nuclear weapons states signatories to the Treaty have failed to fulfil this obligation.

China’s track record on nuclear proliferation:
China has a track record of exporting nuclear weapons technology and equipment to other countries, which have included Pakistan, Iran, North Korea and Libya. In Pakistan, China is believed to have supplied nuclear bomb plans and sufficient highly enriched uranium for two bombs, as well as assisting in the construction of an unsafeguarded plutonium production reactor and the completion of a plutonium reprocessing facility.

A lack of accountability:
The Chinese regime is authoritarian and repressive. The levels of scientific openness, official accountability and public and media scrutiny, which are essential to responsibly manage nuclear materials, are lacking.
China has a large nuclear weapons and material production complex. The level of control and security at these facilities is uncertain.
In China - a nation that has released no official data relating to the radioactive fallout and other environmental contamination of its nuclear weapons test program - the health effects of nuclear waste will again be borne by a people who have no democratic rights.

An inadequate international safeguards system:
As with many nuclear weapons states, there is close coupling between military and civilian nuclear activities. The China National Nuclear Corporation – with the status of a government ministry – is responsible for production, storage and control of all fissile material for civilian as well as military applications.
There are significant limitations to the safeguards established by the International Atomic Energy Agency and full-scope safeguards do not even apply to China as a nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. A bilateral safeguards agreement with Australia would provide no meaningful additional assurance that Australian uranium does not contribute to nuclear weapons. Australia has no people and no capacity on the ground to verify anything in relation to Australian uranium in addition to limited IAEA safeguards.
Regardless of the adequacy or otherwise of safeguards, any uranium sent to China will free up other sources of uranium for possible use in China’s nuclear weapons programs. To deny this is to simply turn a blind eye to the inevitable consequences of Australia’s actions, on a matter relating to the most destructive weapons in existence. Three years ago Australia joined an invasion force on the basis of spurious allegations of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq. Now we are prepared to provide the raw material that can be used by China for its nuclear weapons program. Such duplicity renders our world significantly less safe and makes Australia a short-sighted and unscrupulous dollar-driven quarry.

Increased Australian uranium exports means more Australian uranium mines and more waste:
The strong community opposition in Australia to uranium mining has prevented more mines opening up, despite an aggressive push from industry and currently from the Federal Government. Such opposition has not waned, and is soundly based on the radioactive contamination and environmental damage caused by mining, usurping of the custodial rights of indigenous Australians, on nuclear power’s excessive costs, accident and terrorist risks, inability to combat global warming, and well-established links with nuclear weapons, and by the intractability of the nuclear waste problem.

No Australian state is prepared to deal with nuclear waste, because it is toxic for the long term.

In addition, the nuclear power industry’s strong history of surviving on public subsidies appears set to continue, with proposals for the likely expansion of the Olympic Dam mine in SA to have water supplied by a major desalination project.

An expansion of uranium mining in Australia to support China’s or any other nation’s nuclear industry will further delay real solutions to climate change. In addition, sales of uranium to China will magnify the already grave nuclear weapons threat which looms over humanity.

The Australian Government could do much more to strengthen the existing IAEA safeguards, including by:

  • making it an indefinitely binding precondition of sale that Australian uranium will not be reprocessed to extract plutonium able to be used in nuclear weapons
  • obliging importing countries to demonstrate a proven track record of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons technology to other nations
  • ensuring all nations receiving our uranium are full signatories to relevant international agreements such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)
  • refusing to sell our uranium to nations which have existing nuclear weapons programs.
  • <

Australia should lead the global community in working towards a nuclear weapons free world, which requires a nuclear power free world, due to the inextricable links between the civilian and military nuclear industries. Anything less than this is an inadequate, unsustainable response to the most important security issue we face: the continued existence of nuclear weapons.


Assoc Prof Tilman Ruff
Dr Sue Wareham OAM
Dr Harry Cohen OAM
Professor Ian Maddocks AM

For comment, please contact:
Assoc Prof Tilman Ruff, current MAPW President 0438 099 231
Dr Sue Wareham, Immediate Past President 02 6241 6161(w)/02 6259 6062 (a/hours)
Dimity Hawkins, MAPW Executive Officer 0431 475 465

Close window