Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Serious Questions Asked About Australia India Nuclear Agreement

John Carlson was the Director General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office for over 20 years. There is serious credibility that comes with that. I have never heard him accused of being an anti-nuclear activist – on the contrary I recall he and his office coming under fire from certain members of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties for being too close to the nuclear industry.

So it was with considerable interest that I read his submission to the Treaties Committee Inquiry into the Australia India Nuclear Agreement, which says that there are good reasons for concluding a nuclear co-operation agreement with India, "but not this agreement".

Mr Carlson says that there is no valid reason to weaken Australia's usual safeguards standards, but that this agreement does weaken those standards, such as in the area of accounting and tracking for Australian Obligated Nuclear Material (AONM), the right to see relevant International Atomic Energy Agency Reports, and the right to return of AONM if there is a breach of an agreement.

An important message in Mr Carlson's submission is that India has always insisted on being treated the same as other prospective uranium purchasers, and now should be granted that wish, rather than being given more favourable treatment than other customers. He says that bringing India into the mainstream means that India should be prepared to adopt global norms and practices, not expect the rest of the world to fall into line with what India wants.

Mr Carlson believes that India should -

  • commit to pursue and support nuclear disarmament;
  • commit to full separation of its military and civilian nuclear programs;
  • sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; and
  • support the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.
The submissions reinforce my increasing view that civil society should have better access to treaty negotiations while they are taking place, rather than after the horse has bolted. Clearly the Treaties Committee will need to consider the submissions from Mr Carlson and others seriously.

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