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Nuclear waste returned to sender: U.A.E uranium deal raises too many questions

Media Release
Scott Ludlam 13 May 2013

A deal to sell uranium to the United Arab Emirates will open the door to nuclear waste returning to Australia, the Greens warned today.

Australian Greens spokesperson on nuclear policy, Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlam, raised the alarm at the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties today, pointing out a dangerous provision in the proposed treaty to allow the return of nuclear materials.

"The Greens successfully fought to secure a law against importing nuclear waste to Australia by amending the National Radioactive Waste Management Act. At the time the Government said this change enshrined a long-standing, bipartisan policy of not allowing the importation of nuclear waste. Now we have a proposed treaty that breaks that policy and the law.

"Article XV 2 of the proposed treaty for uranium sales to the United Arab Emirates allows for the return of nuclear material if the UAE does not comply with proper practice. The UAE is a dictatorship not known for workplace safety standards or transparency, making non-compliance a likely event. The Government was unable to rule out this danger today.

"The 2013 Human Rights Watch world report documents how human rights have deteriorated in UAE: arbitrary detentions are noted, deportation of activists, harassment and intimidation of lawyers. Amnesty International made a statement in April noting serious violations of due process, and restrictions on rights to freedom of association. The effective monitoring of breaches and illicit activity require basic human rights standards - whistleblowing and independent media are not encouraged in the UAE. Asked about this, the Government's extraordinary response was ‘at least there's a legal system' in UAE. North Korea has a legal system too - so that's hardly reassuring.

"The US Nuclear Threat Initiative notes that UAE does not have the institutional capacity to meet its commitments on nuclear non-proliferation. This treaty ignores a series of grave concerns raised by a number of international organisations about the dangers of selling uranium to UAE, and does so in order to prop up a tiny and shrinking uranium mining sector that contributes less than 0.29 per cent of export revenue, and a miniscule 0.015 per cent of jobs in Australia. It's not worth the risk.

"This also sets a dangerous precedent for the looming uranium deal with India. In September 2012 India's Auditor General issued a damning report on nuclear regulation in India, highlighting a series of grave organisational and operational flaws, and raised serious concerns about the lack of independence of the Regulation Board. If a similar ‘return to sender' provision is included in a uranium deal with India, it will almost guarantee nuclear waste being returned to Australia in the future.

"The major parties have learned nothing from the sorry history of nuclear power and are prepared to sacrifice public health and the environment to the demands of the uranium mining sector. Only the Greens care about the international ramifications of selling uranium. We urge the Government to abandon this deal."


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