Thursday, December 28, 2006

Oz, Uranium, Taiwan, and the NPT

Australia's Daily Telegraph comments on controversial uranium shipments from Oz to Taiwan, through the US for processing:
CONTROVERSY surrounds Australia's first uranium shipment to Taiwan since it may clear the way for future exports to nuclear-armed India.

BHP Billiton refused to confirm the timing of the shipment via the US but the buyer was less constrained, Fairfax newspapers reported.

“We like to diversify our fuel sources, so this first shipment from Australia is appreciated,” Taipower's Sydney-based executive Samson Lee told Fairfax.

Mr Lee confirmed the uranium would “only be for peaceful power generation”.

The shipment to Taiwan employs an indirect sale arrangement through the US, which will first convert and enrich the ore under a bilateral agreement between Canberra and Washington.

The shipment coincides with the shipment of spent nuclear fuel, in six shipping containers, from Sydney's Lucas Heights reactor via ship to the east coast of the US.

This editorial in the Hindu explains the problem:

.....Mr. Howard, one of Australia's long serving Prime Ministers, obviously cannot resolve this issue easily. His country holds almost 40 per cent of the world's reserves of uranium, yet it does not have a single nuclear power generation plant. All the uranium it mines is exported, but guided by a policy first outlined in 1977, this can go only to countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. India clearly does not qualify under this policy as a customer.


But Mr. Howard knows his country and its politics are different and difficult. Australian voters have been hypersensitive to nuclear proliferation. A recent opinion poll on the proposed sale of uranium to China showed more than half of the respondents were against it even though China is a signatory to the NPT and therefore an eligible buyer. At the other end of the scale are large uranium mining companies in Australia which sense that the entry of China and India to the club could dramatically expand their market, indeed treble it by 2020, according to one estimate. With global uranium prices likely to rise sharply as demand increases, the companies see substantial profit ahead.

Taiwan is not a signatory to the NPT; though it signed on as the ROC, it is no longer a UN member since the ROC delegation left the UN. Hence uranium sales from Oz to Taiwan effectively open the door to sales to other non-NPT countries -- like India.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very nice to point that out. Yet again, Taiwan may be in a squeeze because of the larger concerns of greater powers. Taiwan seriously needs some nuclear weapons. Get some respect and never be beholden to China, Japan, the US, some unnamable pacific island country, or anyone else ever again.