18 June 2007
The Prospects for Uranium Enrichment in Australia - Correcting the Record
Statement from Mr John Carlson, Director-General, Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office
It has been claimed that I have “admitted that we will have uranium enrichment in Australia”(Nuke deal with Russia very close, Sunday Mail, 17 June 2007) This is an inaccurate reflection of what I actually said on this subject, and I wish to correct the record.
This claim is based on a report by the Russian news agency, Ria Novosti, published on 5 June. In my interview with Ria Novosti I made the following points:
- the Prime Minister has noted the possibility of value-adding to Australia’s uranium exports by enriching uranium in Australia;
- however, there are a number of uncertainties, including Australia’s lack of an established enrichment technology and the licence costs for imported technology, whether there would be investors prepared to outlay the substantial capital costs involved, and whether a State government would be willing to host an enrichment facility.
This discussion was condensed in the Ria Novosti report to “I think our principle is to have enrichment in Australia” (in response to the question whether Australia might invest in an enrichment plant in Russia) and “the issue of enrichment was a long way into the future because of several stumbling blocks, in particular the lack of enrichment technology in Australia”.
Even in this abbreviated version, this is a long way from “admitting that we will have uranium enrichment in Australia”.
In fact the Government has made it clear that no decisions have been taken on whether Australia might have a uranium enrichment industry in the future. This is one of the matters discussed in the Switkowski Report which is under study.
Regarding the proposed new Australia-Russia nuclear agreement, as Mr Downer announced on 27 April, this will allow Australian uranium producers to supply Russia’s expanding nuclear power industry. The agreement will be similar to Australia’s other bilateral safeguards agreements, particularly the agreements concluded with China last year. The agreement will be subject to the normal Parliamentary and public review process after it is signed.
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