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John Daly

John Daly

Dr. John C.K. Daly is the chief analyst for Oilprice.com, Dr. Daly received his Ph.D. in 1986 from the School of Slavonic and East European…

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Australian-Indian Uranium Deal Drives Another Stake into the NPT

Australian-Indian Uranium Deal Drives Another Stake into the NPT

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which entered into force in 1970, was designed to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation while dangling the carrot of cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy to signatory states as the world advanced towards the goal of nuclear demobilization and eventual complete disarmament.

India, Israel and Pakistan, all states with nuclear weapons, have never ratified the treaty.
And Iran, a NPT signatory, is under increasing international sanctions pressure because its civilian nuclear energy program purportedly masks a covert nuclear weapons program.

Well, apparently if you hang tough long enough and have the right backers; the NPT no longer applies. Especially if you were a previous non-aligned nation now a darling of Wall St investors hungry for profits from the BRICs.

On 17 October India and Australia determined to initiate discussions on a nuclear agreement that would facilitate the supply of uranium to nuclear plants being set up in India.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Australia’s Prime Minister counterpart Julia Gillard at a joint media interaction sidestepped nuclear issues and instead suggested that both India and Australia intend to upgrade bilateral defense cooperation, with Gillard listing India as among the half -dozen countries that matter the most for Australia, arguing that the pair sought greater defense contacts, while Singh spoke about the ongoing “wide-ranging” cooperation in defense and security issues.

Related Article: South Korea - Most Dangerous Nuclear Center on the Planet

But the 800-pound gorilla in the room remains India’s dual-use nuclear program, and Australia’s willingness to fuel it.

Four years ago Australia supported the “special exemption” given to India by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG).

So, apparently, never mind the NPT. Australia’s “Business Spectator” publication crowed, “It has been an excellent week for Australian diplomacy. Prime Minister Julia Gillard established a strong new beginning for Australia's sometimes-troubled ties with a rising India.”

Why is India interested in uranium imports from Australia?

Simple – India sees nuclear energy as a ‘quick fix” to boost energy output to underpin its economy, which is struggling to cope with a power shortfall estimated to reduce its growth rate by as much as 1.2 percent annually. Gillard convinced her Labor party to end its ban on uranium sales to India, which, as noted above, was not a NPT signatory. Is the sale “just business,” or does it undermine a treaty under whose terms Iran is increasingly being penalized by sanctions, despite being a signatory?

India certainly sees it as a good deal. Six years ago during an interview, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that he wanted Australia to become a leading supplier of uranium to India. Australia already has a foothold in the Indian energy market, as it is now the nation’s biggest supplier of coal, which currently powers much of India’s power plants.

Related Article: Uranium Woes: No Relief for Prices Amid Low Demand

But not everyone Down Under is convinced. An editorial in the influential “Financial Review” opined, “There are also question marks about safety standards in the Indian nuclear industry, with a recent report by the nation’s auditor-general finding major faults in terms of inspections, monitoring and verification of the disposal of nuclear waste. Australia needs to ensure it is not providing fuel to nuclear reactors with the potential to be the world’s next Chernobyl. Or, to weapons-making facilities.”

Quite aside from proliferation issues, Canberra skeptics have also noted the issues raised above about inspections, monitoring and verification of the disposal of nuclear waste.
That said, the budding Indian-Australian nuclear fuel axis raises troubling questions that the global community would prefer to avoid.

Simply put – are there “good” NPT non-signatory states, and are they more naughty than NPT signatory nations?

Perhaps the best interim interest is to pressure the “outlaws” from the NPT, while insisting that signatories “double down” on their efforts to convince the international community that they are in fact abiding by the treaty’s terms.

Unless, of course, it involves a rising BRIC economy, in which it’s apparently “just business.”

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Mazo on October 22 2012 said:
    This article is riddled with many factual errors.

    Firstly, contrary to popular belief - the Non Proliferation Treaty is not International Law; it is a "treaty" and this implies a voluntary commitment by nations. Israel, India and Pakistan are under NO legal compulsion to subscribe to the NPT if they choose not to.

    Secondly, the NPT's intent was to move towards total nuclear disarmament of the Five Nuclear States who signed it. As of 2012, NONE of these nations have gone nuclear free, including the UK and France whose sole motivation for nuclear weapons was to defend themselves against a Soviet attack which no longer exists. Yet, instead of examining how well the NPT has worked in achieving its goals of nuclear disarmament we have people calling for more nations to join the failed enterprise of Nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, case in point being North Korea which was a NPT signatory state.

    Thirdly, the NPT treaty itself was drawn up arbitrarily after the Chinese detonated their nuclear device making all states who possessed nuclear weapons as of 1967 as "legal" nuclear weapons states without any logical, legal or ethical reason to substantiate their assertion.

    Fourthly, the NPT has exit clauses for nations who wish to leave the treaty based on "extraordinary events" and even NATO has claimed that the NPT would no longer hold true to NATO states under a state of "general war" implying that the underlying intention of preventing nuclear weapon proliferation would fall apart in a time of war making any "war" a "nuclear war" defeating the whole purpose of the NPT.

    Finally, Iran is a signatory of the NPT and as such is legally obligated to comply with all its commitments to nuclear non-proliferation and reap all the rewards that are entitled to it under the guise of being a NPT signatory. Israel, India and Pakistan on the other hand have not benefited like Iran with the free access to reactors and fuel. India's exemption instead has been "earned" by demonstrating responsibility and abstaining from proliferating nuclear weapons technology despite being under no legal compulsion to do so. Thus India's "exemption" and legalization of its status is far more deserving that the legal right of the US, China, Russia, UK or France to posses nuclear weapons given the extensive nuclear weapons testing these nations have carried out and the amount of radiation they have released into the environment through their nuclear tests.
  • Macca on October 22 2012 said:
    John should do his research. The situation involving Australia, the U.S. and India is governed by commercial interests, not the NPT. It's a commercial stitch-up, engineered by the State Department under Hillary Clinton, and supported by Julia Gillard and the Indian government. From Colin Todhunter:

    "India’s expanding multi-billion dollar nuclear sector represents rich pickings for the key players both within India and abroad. The Indian government has agreed to buy US$150 billion worth of nuclear reactors, equipment and other materials from the US, whose companies will benefit for decades from Indian orders for military equipment. It has also promised various other countries that their companies will receive lucrative contracts in India. The French company Areva, US companies GE Hitachi and Westinghouse and the Russian company Atomstroy export are all building nuclear plants in the country. In return, the US lobbied to allow India to engage in civilian nuclear trade, despite not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty."

  • Rashid Ahmed on December 09 2013 said:
    When India wanted Uranium from Australia to make the atom bomb, then Australia denied it and also show a cause that the India will use that Atom bomb to destroy Pakistan. Shujata Singh was an ambassador in Australia. She was convincing Australia to give India uranium but all time Australia denied it. Then she was given a plan by the India gov. The plan was to make a fight in Australia among the Indian about racial profiling. Then the Indian fought among themselves. The responsibility was on Shujata Singh to fulfill the plan. And how she did that? Well, at first she gave some money to all the Indian in the Australia. Students, officers, teachers, lawyer, even the taxi drivers participated and fulfill the plan. What was happened? The most interesting part is this. All the disaster happened there was fault of Australia racism administrator that India claimed in the United nation.
    Then Australia was afraid of that and had to sell the uranium to India.

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