Australia, India civil nuke talks progressing along expected lines: Envoy

Last Updated: Sat, Feb 22, 2014 03:45 hrs

Civil nuclear cooperation talks between Australia and India are progressing along expected lines, said Australia's High Commissioner to India Patrick Suckling.

Interacting with select media here this week, High Commissioner Suckling said Australia and India have already engaged in four rounds of negotiations, with the last one taking place in Canberra, in the last year, and added that there has been "very good goodwill", and that he is hopeful about a good outcome.

While refusing to indicate a specific timeline as to when Australia would be ready to supply India with uranium, High Commissioner Suckling said both sides were currently working through different approaches, and that there were "no real disagreements between the two governments".

He said that Australia is determined that any agreement reached with India in the near future on the issue of uranium supplies must be similar to the pacts inked by Canberra with other countries. These countries include the United States, the European Union, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Canada.

He further emphasized that the Australian Government would insist on getting assurances from New Delhi that uranium, if supplied, would be used only for peaceful and not military purposes.

After all existing "wrinkles" related to uranium supplies and civil nuclear cooperation are ironed out, the agreement would move into the commercial sphere, High Commissioner Suckling said.

He also said that India's Nuclear Liability Law would not apply to the Australia-India pact, as Australia is not any kind of nuclear reactor building arrangement with New Delhi.

Australia's uranium has been mined since 1954, and four mines are currently operating. More are planned. Australia's known uranium resources are the world's largest - 31 per cent of the world total. In 2012, Australia produced 8244 tonnes of U3O8 (6991 tU).

It is the world's third-ranking uranium producer, behind Kazakhstan and Canada and uses no nuclear power.

Australia's uranium is sold strictly for electrical power generation only, and safeguards are in place to ensure this. Australia is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapons state. Its safeguards agreement under the NPT came into force in 1974, and it was the first country in the world to bring into force an additional protocol in relation to this - in 1997.

In addition to these international arrangements, Australia requires customer countries to enter bilateral safeguards treaty, which is more rigorous than NPT arrangements. By Ashok Dixit (ANI)

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