Should We Help Egypt Go Nuclear?

The biggest Australian engineering firm Worley Parsons, an ASX-listed company, has just won a $160 million contract to help build Nuclear Power Plants for the Arab Republic of Egypt.

According to a Bloomberg article, the contract will provide “engineering and advisory services” including  “training Egyptian nuclear engineers, advising on which technology to use and best construction locations”.

I have very strong reservations about this deal.  Egypt is an Arab-Muslim country. At the moment, the current Egyptian Government is somewhat friendly to the West and uses overwhelming force to prevent its home-grown Islamic fanatics taking control, but this could change overnight.

There are many different designs for electricity-producing nuclear reactors, some of which are designed to avoid producing weapons-grade nuclear fuels as by-products. A the moment, I have no idea what sort of design Worley Parsons plans to recommend to the Egyptians.

My fear is that the reactors could be converted to allow production of weapons grade nuclear fuels, or that Egypt will learn enough to be able to build new reactors specialised for this purpose. The last thing we need is another Islamic regime with nukes.

Selling Australian Uranium to India

September 16, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Australian Foreign Policy, Australian News 

India is upset with Australia because we refuse to sell them Uranium. We currently have a ban on selling Uranium to all countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Australian reserves hold 30-40% of the World’s Uranium, so this business is very lucrative for the country.

In principle, I support the sale of Uranium to India – they are a rapidly growing economy and they face huge increases in domestic demand for electricity. They are a democracy and I consider them to be a peace-loving people.

I presume that India is hesistant to sign this treaty due to their ongoing disputes with Pakistan, and as a counterbalance to their large nuclear-capable neighbour China.

The NPT is certainly important, but it should not be the only factor in the decision.

Last year, during the APEC summit, former Prime Minister John Howard signed an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin to sell Uranium to Russia. Unlike India, Russia is a signatory to the NPT and under the terms, Australian Uranium would not be used for military purposes or exported to third parties.

BUT as other people astutely pointed out – with Australian Uranium, Russia can divert its own domestically produced Uranium to weapons use, and sell it to hostile countries like Iran, whilst keeping within the terms of the NPT. Is this a desirable outcome?

Perhaps we can negotiate some other sort of agreement with India which would commit them to using Australian Uranium purely for nuclear electricity production, with some sort of Australian supervision. If such a thing can be done, this surely would provide a better outcome for all.

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