Safeguards

At present, Australia has 22 bilateral safeguards agreements in place, providing for the transfer of Australian Obligated Nuclear Materials (AONM) to up to 39 countries, plus Taiwan. 

There is increasing recognition of the fundamental flaws and limitation of the international nuclear safeguards system. While there is much that can be done to improve this system, fundamental flaws and pervasive interconnections between civil and military applications of nuclear technologies and materials mean that the most responsible position is to phase out uranium mining and export of uranium, and globally wind down involvement in the nuclear industry. 

This was the finding of the 2006 report, Illusion of Protection - the unavoidable limitations of safeguards on nuclear materials and the export of uranium to China.  

The report, produced by MAPW and the Australian Conservation Foundation, provides a background on the history and current status of the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament measures internationally as well as an overview of the history of Australia's record with safeguards.

It goes on to explore the current international safeguards systems, how they are designed to work and the inherent difficulties and flaws in them. It also profiles the attempts of the IAEAi to strengthen safeguards through Additional Protocols and the problems they face.

Although the report makes a case specifically against sales of Australian uranium to China, the lessons and problems outlined are applicable to any plans to sell uranium to India or any other state with nuclear weapons programs or ambitions.

Essential reading:

  • In October 2008, Australian government's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommended much more stringent safeguards were needed if Australia was to sell uranium to Russia. Read the Committee's recommendations.
  • Read MAPW's submission, including supplementary submissions; and submissions by other organisations and individuals - scroll down to find them on the Committee website 
  • Illusion of Protection - the unavoidable limitations of safeguards on nuclear materials and the export of uranium to China - report by MAPW and ACFi, 2006, available on this website as the full 46-page report, or as a 12-page Executive Summary