Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Vote to lift uranium export ban

Australia's ruling Labour Party, led by Julia Gillard, has voted to overturn a ban on exporting uranium to India

Australia's ruling party has voted to overturn a long-standing ban on exporting uranium to India, despite fierce opposition from critics who believe such sales are unsafe because India has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

Premier Julia Gillard urged members of her centre-left Labour Party during its annual conference to allow the exports in the interest of the national economy, arguing there are safeguards in place to ensure the uranium would be used for peaceful purposes.

"We need to make sure that across our regions we have the strongest possible relationships we can, including with the world's largest democracy, India," said Ms Gillard.

"That's why today we should determine to change our platform and enable us, under safeguards, to sell uranium to India."

The party's vote to amend an executive policy does not need parliamentary approval.

Australia holds 40% of the world's known uranium reserves. It does not sell uranium on the open market and bans nuclear power generation at home.

But it sells uranium only for the purpose of power generation under strict conditions banning any military applications in bilateral trade agreements with the United States, China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and several European countries.

Australia's previous conservative government started negotiations with energy-hungry India on uranium sales.

But the Labour government immediately ended the talks when it came to power in 2007, ruling out exports unless New Delhi signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Ms Gillard had previously noted that the US lifted a "de facto international ban" on nuclear cooperation with India in 2005 when it signed a deal with New Delhi to trade uranium and work together on civil atomic power generation.

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