Australia-Russia uranium talks

AUSTRALIAN uranium producers may soon be given the green light to supply Russia’s nuclear power industry, with talks under way to reach a new agreement with the Russian Federation. Consultation between Australian and Russian officials started last week in Canberra to discuss an expansion of the 1990 Australia-Russia agreement on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The agreement would retain and build on safeguards in the current agreement and Australia’s other safeguard agreements. The current agreement covers processing of Australian uranium in Russia by third parties, but not use of uranium by Russia itself. Russia’s announcement last year of its decision to separate military and civil nuclear programs, as well as placing civil facilities under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA, was integral to the commencement of new discussions. A follow-up meeting will be held in Moscow in May. Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said in a statement that the agreement was expected to provide a framework for broader scientific and commercial cooperation between the two countries. “Having the world’s largest uranium resources, Australia has a particular responsibility and opportunity to contribute to major nuclear power programs, and leads by example in the application of strict safeguards,” he said. Mr Downer said the states and territories would be kept advised of the negotiations, with the agreement to be tabled in parliament, for review by the joint standing committee on treaties, once negotiations were finalised.

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