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Need more safeguards before India uranium exports: Aussie panel

world Updated: Sep 09, 2015 12:51 IST
India-Australia nuclear deal

Australia should not sell uranium to India until the South Asian giant establishes an independent nuclear regulator, a parliamentary committee recommended on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi inked a long-awaited pact for Australia to sell uranium to India in September last year, in a bid to ease the country's power crisis and help provide clean energy to its population.

But parliament’s treaties committee, which has a majority of members from the governing Liberal-National coalition, called for more safeguards on the landmark energy deal between the two countries.

The panel further said India should implement certain measures to strengthen safeguards and nuclear non-proliferation. The recommendations include Australia helping India to "make genuine disarmament advances, such as signing the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty".

It noted that recent checks by renowned bodies indicated that India’s nuclear safety standards were "not as high as they should be".

"Because of this, the committee has recommended that Australian uranium not be sold to India until the Indian government has established a nuclear regulator with statutory independence and safety inspections of Indian nuclear facilities that meet best practice standards," the panel said.

It said other concerns – such as the tracking and accounting of nuclear material so it would not be diverted for military use – had been addressed by the Australian government's safeguards agency ANSO, which monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Australia is the world's third-biggest uranium producer and the parliamentary report said the domestic sector would enjoy a huge boost if the agreement is ratified, with the industry and the number of people employed in it doubling in size.

Export revenue too would increase by an estimated Aus $1.75 billion (US$1.22 billion), the report said.

Australia had long refused to export uranium to India as it has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It reversed its stand in 2012 as it sought to improve ties with the growing nation.

India is heavily dependent on coal and has been struggling to meet rising energy demand as the economy booms and the middle class expands.