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Democrats want guarantees for use of Australian yellowcake: 183 trafficking incidents involving nuclear materials in former Soviet Union in five years

Posted by gmarkets on 25 September, 2007

The federal government claimed that its uranium agreement with Russia would guarantee that our yellowcake was used purely for peaceful purposes, but it was hard to seriously believe that Australian officials were going to have access to Russia’s facilities, said Democrats Senator Lyn Allison in the Federal Senate on 17 September 2007.

Terrorist threat: “It defies all common sense,” Allison said. “Russia is either unwilling or unable to stop nuclear material from getting into the hands of terrorists. We know that from 2001 to 2006 there were 183 reported trafficking incidents involving nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union. So why isn’t the government insisting that the level of security over radioactive material be greatly enhanced so that we do not get any further examples of a very lax security approach. There is, of course, one way of guaranteeing that our uranium is used only to generate power — and that is, as I said earlier, to insist on disarmament and nonproliferation. On both counts, Russia fails miserably.”

Rearmament: Like all other weapon states, Russia was actively engaged in nuclear rearmament, Allison said. The euphemism used by Russia, as by other places, was ‘modernisation’. What that meant is nasty, more powerful nuclear weapons and very few of the old arsenal being dismantled. Russia’s nuclear weapons program still generated a lot of international instability. President Putin recently announced that his long-range bombers would resume their routine flights around the globe for the first time since the eighties. Allison claimed there were plans to double combat aircraft production by 2025, with more nuclear missiles. There was a build-up of nuclear weapons around the world, and Russia’s dismantling of just a few thousand obsolete nukes in favour of these newer ones offered no comfort to the rest of the world.

Highly enriched uranium trafficked: “Russia, like all other nuclear weapons states, flouts the nuclear nonproliferation treaty every day,” Allison said. “Most discussion about a nexus between nuclear trafficking and organised crime and terrorism has focused on the former Soviet Union, particularly Central Asia and the Caucasus. According to the US based Arms Control Association, these regions house a large number of insufficiently secured nuclear facilities in close proximity to the trafficking routes for drugs and small arms. Most trafficking is in low-grade nuclear material from medical and industrial facilities abandoned by the military. However, 10 of the known trafficking incidents between 2001 and 2006 involved highly enriched uranium.”

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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