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Aust. reassurances China uranium deal threadbare

Govt reassurances on China uranium deal threadbare: Greens

The Australian government's so-called secure safeguards covering its forthcoming treaty to sell uranium to China are fatally flawed, Australian Greens energy spokesperson Senator Christine Milne said today.

"In December 2005, Madam Fu Ying, China's Ambassador to Australia, told a Melbourne mining club luncheon that China has insufficient uranium for both its civil and military programmes," Senator Milne said in Canberra today.

"Therefore the Australian government claim that Australian uranium will go to declared civil facilities only is a sham.

"Whether uranium is used in power stations in lieu of uranium going to nuclear warheads, the outcome is the same - Australian uranium will support China's nuclear weapons programme either directly or indirectly.

"Senator Nick Minchin's tabled response to a Greens question in Parliament says that Australia's uranium will be used only at 'declared facilities' subject to China's safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"However, 'declared facilities' are only declared at the discretion of China. The Chinese government can withdraw these facilities from IAEA oversight at any time simply by stating concerns about national security.

"As if that is not bad enough, the conversion of yellowcake to gas, its enrichment for weapons grade or civilian reactor grade, and processing into nuclear fuel rods for power or weapons take place in facilities which are predominately controlled by the military and are not 'declared facilities'.

"This means that before the uranium gets to the voluntarily declared power stations, it will have been through conversion, enrichment and processing facilities which may or may not be voluntarily declared and in which it is impossible to separate or track uranium atoms going for military or civilian use.

"This shows how threadbare are the Australian government's commitments to preventing nuclear proliferation.

"The government is so dazzled by the prospect of facilitating the sale of billions of dollars of uranium to an eager customer that it is prepared to turn a blind eye to a regime which has wilfully ignored or invalidated its commitments and treaties in the recent past, ranging from civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, environmental responsibility and human health."

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