Greens attack Australia's move to sell uranium to Russia

12th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Environmentalists on Friday attacked Australia's decision to sell uranium to Russia, voicing concerns over safety standards and a lack of inspections.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, both in Seoul for the G20 Summit, Thursday ratified a nuclear cooperation agreement allowing Australian uranium to be enriched in Russia and used in Russian nuclear reactors.

But Greens party spokesman Scott Ludlam said the case against selling uranium to Russia was "undeniable."

"Russia is a key part of the Iranian nuclear programme and has not been visited by IAEA inspectors since 2001," he said.

"This is an example of short-term profits taking precedence over long-term health and security interests."

Under a 1990 arrangement, Australian uranium could be processed in Russia for a third country's use but could not be used for power generation in Russia.

The new agreement allowing Australian uranium to be enriched in Russia was signed in Australia in 2007, but its ratification was opposed by a parliamentary committee over safety issues.

Legislators had called for the deal to be blocked unless Russia met a number of conditions, including speeding up reforms to separate civilian and military nuclear plants.

Gillard said the new agreement met all of Australia's and the International Atomic Energy Agency's nuclear safeguards, with all nuclear material transferred to Russia to be used solely for peaceful, non-military purposes.

But environmentalists doubted the safeguards in the deal.

"The federal government's decision to sell uranium to Russia puts the interests of one contested industry ahead of Australia's national interest and global responsibilities," said the Australian Conservation Foundation's David Noonan.

Australia has a large proportion of the world's uranium deposits and Gillard said the new agreement would increase export opportunities and create jobs, as well as consolidating the country's position as a reliable provider of energy resources.

© 2010 AFP

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