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Russia has its own uranium; 700 tonnes of highly enriched uranium which was extracted from the nuclear weapons that it dismantled in the 1990s

Posted by gmarkets on 22 September, 2007

The Democrats supported the terms of reference put forward to examine Australia’s deal with Russia, Democrats Senator Lynn Allison told the Federal Senate on 17 September 2007. But she said she did not think that the parliamentary oversight which Senator Payne had suggested will be provided through the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties was adequate.

Committee scrutiny not good enough: Allison said: “Typically that committee does not undertake a thorough examination of the sorts of issues that have already been raised by Senator Milne and which I will raise as well. It is doubtful that that could be in any way a thorough going over of this agreement, so why not refer it to a committee for proper examination?”

Why now? “I would also ask why it is that we have to have this deal with Russia right now. This is a major departure from the previously cautious approach that Australia has taken to who gets to have its uranium. At the end of an electoral cycle why is it that suddenly this agreement needs to be renegotiated and signed? I think that is something of a mystery. It is also questionable whether, with an election looming, even the treaty process which is being promised will have any effect at all”.

Russia has enough of its own uranium: The first point I want to make is that we are being sold something of a pup, because it is not clear to me how the government can justify Russia needing our uranium. Russia has its own uranium. Even if Russia were to install 30 reactors over the next 30 years, there would be no need for us to rush into an agreement with Russia to hand over our uranium to it. It does not need it at this point in time. In fact, Russia has 700 tonnes of highly enriched uranium which was extracted from the nuclear weapons that it dismantled in the 1990s. That highly enriched uranium is required to be mixed with uranium in order to make a substance which is then exported to other countries, notably the United States”.

What’s really going on: “The real issue here seems to be not so much that Russia needs our uranium but that Russia needs our uranium so that it can pass a product off to the United States. At least half of the United States’ supply of reactor fuel has been sourced from Russia over recent years. But there is, as I said, 700 tonnes of highly enriched uranium still sitting there. Not only that but there are 10,000 weapons. It has been said that Russia needs to be congratulated for reducing its armaments, its nuclear weapons arsenal. It did; it got rid of mostly obsolete weapons, and that presumably did not pose a problem, but it still holds 10,000 nuclear warheads—probably enough to blow up the planet as we know it. Why Australia has not taken the opportunity to leverage out of Russia an agreement to a time frame within which it will dismantle the remainder of its weapons is anyone’s guess”.

Reference: Lyn Allison, Senator for Victoria, Leader of the Australian Democrats, Commonwealth Senate, 17 September 2007 (on Committees: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee Reference)

Erisk Net, 17/9/2007

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