Wed, Jan 18, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Australia insists uranium exports to China will be safe


Australia yesterday repeated its insistence that none of its planned uranium exports to China be put to military use as the two sides prepared for talks on how to ensure the materials are only used for peaceful purposes.

Last September, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said China could be importing 8,100 tonnes of uranium a year by 2020, giving it the potential to become Australia's largest customer.

Officials of the two countries begin two days of formal negotiations today in Canberra on an agreement to ensure all Australian uranium sold to China is put to peaceful use.

Yesterday, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade statement said the government was confident China would abide by Australian strictures on uranium exports, which prohibits military use and re-exports to third countries.

"We believe China is willing and able to meet Australia's stringent safeguards conditions for uranium supply," the statement said.

"Australia will not compromise our strict safeguards requirements. We will ensure that supply of Australian obligated nuclear material will not contribute to any military purpose," it said.

China, the world's second-largest energy consumer, plans to meet its growing demand with a fourfold increase in nuclear energy production by 2020.

Already a confirmed nuclear power -- along with Russia, Britain, France, India and Pakistan -- the country has to import most of the uranium it needs as its nuclear program expands.

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