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Australian uranium ‘could end up in India’s nuclear weapons program’ via The Guardian

Former IAEA chairman says deal to sell uranium to India ‘drastically changes’ safeguards policy and risks playing ‘fast and loose’ with nuclear weapons

Australian uranium could end up in India’s nuclear weapons program thanks to concessions the Abbott government made in the deal between the two countries, two nuclear experts have warned.

A former Australian diplomat and chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ronald Walker, said the agreement to sell uranium to India “drastically changes longstanding policy” on safeguards and risked playing “fast and loose” with nuclear weapons.

It differed substantially from Australia’s 23 other uranium export deals and “would do damage to the non-proliferation regime”, Walker told a hearing of the parliamentary joint standing committee on treaties this week.

The prime minister signed an agreement to make Australia a “long-term, reliable supplier of uranium to India” in Delhi in September, but the terms of the deal are yet to be endorsed by the committee.

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Both Walker and Carlson said they strongly supported exporting uranium to India to promote economic development and mitigate the use of fossil fuels. But the safeguards demanded of India were much less stringent than in similar deals Australia had struck with China, the US and Japan, Carlson said.

Along with Pakistan and North Korea, India was the only country still producing fissile material for nuclear weapons, he said, and was “engaged in a nuclear arms buildup, at a time when others are reducing their arsenals”.

“There is no justification to require less of India than our other partners,” he said.

He said Indian officials maintained they would not account for how Australian materials would be used, but would instead rely on IAEA rules “which contain a number of weaknesses”. These included allowing nuclear material to be moved from a facility with safeguards to one without them.

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