28 July, 2007

Australia-India uranium sales: Uranium is uranium, no matter which country supplies it.

Hmm. The Howard government’s Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane is desperate to sell Australian uranium to India. Never mind that India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT). MacFarlane pledges he will not sell it if there is a possibility that India might use it for nuclear weapons. However, he neglects to point out some facts from the apathetic Australian public. The fact is that India’s purchase of Australian uranium for electricity will simply free up other countries’ uranium for its existing weapons programme. Uranium is uranium, be it from Australia or XYZistan. His proposed 'safeguard' pledge is meaningless.

Was MacFarlane’s pledge core or non-core? …or is it simply another po-faced pre-election fact-overboard? Has he chosen to forget that India and Pakistan faced a scary nuclear standoff not too long ago while the rest of the world stood nervously by for Armageddon. Bay of Pigs showtime all over again. Has he conveniently overlooked the fact that Pakistan recently tested a long-range nuclear-capable missile which can reach New Delhi? How will he justify refusing uranium to Pakistan while selling it to India? Is the sub-continental arms race gearing up yet again? All the signs are there, Ian. Don’t lie to us, now. Don’t even feed us part-truths. We're the public ...you know, the dummies who elected you.

As an analogy to nuclear power, consider PORNOGRAPHY. There is a huge world-wide demand for pornography and there’s BIG MONEY to be earned from manufacturing and selling it. But just because you CAN do it is not always a good reason to ACTUALLY do it ...yes?

Pornography Minister Alexanduh Downer smugly points out that “India has an impeccable record in terms of [nuclear] non-proliferation”. Hey Mr Toadface, [a] it’s not true, and [b] it can all change in a heart-beat once the uranium is out of Australia’s hands. India, like any major power, will always make decisions in its own interests in disputes with neighbours, even if it has previously made promises to the contrary, or lets IAEA inspectors in as agreed. Why else would they refuse to sign the NNPT? The IAEA has no teeth, as Iraqis will bear witness. The absolute minimum starting point for uranium sales negotiations must be that India first sign the NNPT. To that extent, Kevin Rudd’s policy is safer than Howard’s.
......................But wait!! …...there’s LESS !

Listen up, Australia. Even now, India won’t play by any rules but its own. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is still refusing to accept curbs on its re-processing of spent nuclear fuel. Shouldn’t that put an automatic end to any uranium discussions? Not only that, India wants assurances from its new best friend [George W. Bush] that Washington will continue to supply fuel for its atomic plants in the event New Delhi conducts further nuclear weapons tests!!!

So India has admitted that further nuclear weapons tests are not ruled out. Truth is, nothing has changed - that’s precisely what they’ve always said. It’s Australia which has changed its tune from a mere 2 months ago. Australia’s new softness on Nuclear Proliferation will henceforth make it well nigh impossible for the world community to pursue a global NNPT. Why would any more countries sign up when a nation like India can get all it wants without having to sign up? Beware - Howard’s push to sell uranium will seriously de-stabalize the South Asian region and the world. It's lunatic that a weak squib like Howard can take a course of action which has the potential to tip the whole world into a nuclear spin-dive. Does Howard care? Not at all - he knows he's on his last lap.

John Dubya Howard is still stubbornly tunnel-visioned about pumping steroids into Australia’s resource boom – at least until the election – even at the cost of over-riding the Queensland and WA state Labor governments’ ban on uranium mining. Stalinist? McCarthyist? or what? ...Hey, where's my country, dude?

John Ducklips Howard is politically savvy enough to recognise that to the tame and blinkered Australian voting public pays more attention to domestic hip-pocket issues than to “irrelevant” international relations. Let’s see if that remains the case when the fallout cloud is drifting towards WA, or the old-growth forests of Tasmania are too radio-active to work in:

............Proposed cover for George W. Orwell’s Twenty-Eighty-Four

PS: Alexanduh Downer tried to justify the nuclear deal by appealing to Green sentiment in the Australian electorate: “[India’s] going to be a massive consumer of energy, and we want to deal with the issue of Climate Change”. Words, words, words. I remind Alexanduh that regime change begins at home, and refer him respectfully to my nice photos of his handsome self swanning around his electorate of Mayo.

PPS: Is anybody in Australia AWAKE?? Strayans didn’t come out of their collective coma when the recent meeting of the APEC Energy ministers
ditched a plan to set up a regional nuclear safeguards authority. Did you also know that Vietnam has signalled that it wants to go nuclear within 10 years? Indonesia? Thailand? Russia is negotiating with the illegal Burmese military to install reactors in Burma. Does this all bother you, just a tiny bit? Never a murmur from Australia, and all happening at the precise time Howard government was standing behind GWBush and threatening Iran with sanctions because it, like everyone else, wants nuclear technology for its energy needs. Downer should write the textbook for Diplomatic Hypocrisy 101.

Australia’s own plans for nuclear power are well-advanced, thanks to the Howard government’s secretiveness. When Howard was
personally informed that a private company (Australian Nuclear Energy Pty Ltd) had been set up by business friends, he chose not to tell anyone – including parliament. Co-incidentally(?), just FIVE DAYS BEFORE that, Howard had announced the Switkowski review into Australia’s nuclear potential. Prepare to be dumbfounded by this reluctant radio interview with one of the company directors (Clarence Hardy), followed by Peter Garrett’s stock reply - like a hand-held puppet.

Before you dash out to buy your own gasmask, listen to Howard’s Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane attempting to play down nuclear risks, then trying to emphasize the possibilities of Greenhouse gas reductions. Spot his flaws and sly omissions – switch on your Acme Crap Detector (supplied free to readers of FunkyPix2).

Things are not always what they seem to be in the shadowy no-woman’s land between business and politics. A pile of rubbish can be given New Meaning under the bright lights of propaganda.
To conclude, here are some pro-nuclear postcards from the 1950s. Even though the Big-Money was trying to promote nuclear power, the post-war generation would have nothing of it. You might guess why.

London, 1958: This nuclear exhibition hall attracted far fewer visitors than the Home Economics Show next door.

It would be interesting to know who bank-rolled this campaign back in the '50s.

At the 1958 Brussells International Exposition, atomic energy supporters spent
a great deal of money building the “Atomium”, with a restaurant at its apex.

................ This was a postcard advertising an anti-nuclear rally
..........................in London’s Hyde Park in the 1980s.

And here's another animation by Nicholson [of the Australian newspaper]. It slyly reveals Howard's jaundiced purpose behind the resources boom.

Lastly, here's FunkyPix2's glance into the future of nuclear power in Australia, in the days when Shane Warne becomes the premier of Queensland.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there,

    I found a very practical view on the issue. I am more inclined to agree with that post than yours.


    This post aims to get a handle on:

    1. India’s uranium and plutonium tradeoffs

    2. the lack of influence of future Australian Uranium sales over India’s nuclear weapon stocks and

    3. the problems an Australia-India nuclear deal will cause any future Australian Labor Party (Rudd) government.

    Most of the information here is based on comments provided (or websites located) by an esteemed (yet modest) nuclear and missile expert "Anonymous". I have to admit that I know less about nuclear power or weapon physics than other areas so if Anonymous or others want to suggest any corrections I'd be happy to consider them.

    Australia on Tuesday July, 31 2007 promised to support the Indo-US civil nuclear deal in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and indicated its readiness to supply uranium to India.

    This was conveyed by Australian Foreign Minister Downer to Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee during a meeting in Manila when the recently-concluded Indo-US civil nuclear deal came up for discussion among other issues.

    Previously, Canberra had reservations on supplying uranium to India as India is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

    The 45-nation NSG is required to modify by consensus its guidelines to allow the international community to have civil nuclear trade with India.

    Australia, known to have the one of largest reserves of uranium, said it would extend cooperation by supplying the nuclear fuel as and when India finalises safeguards agreement with International Atomic Energy Agency.

    Downer told Mukherjee that the Australian Cabinet will meet soon to take a decision on exporting uranium to India.

    Downer separately told Australian journalists that the two leaders discussed the Indo-US civil nuclear deal and he congratulated New Delhi on the agreement.

    "I said with this agreement now having been initiated, of course, it has ratification processes to go through, that we will begin to look at this whole question of exporting uranium to India," Downer was quoted as saying by the Australian media.

    1. and 2. Weapons over Nuclear Power Generation

    Problem - If Australia did not sell Uranium to India, would this limit the existing Indian weapons nuclear program or, at least, influence India's weapons decisions?

    Arun Sharma et al have done an analysis of Indian Uranium mining.

    Sharma advises:

    1. Indian strategic nuclear weapons use approximately 3 Kg Plutonium.

    2. India has large un-safeguarded Plutonium stockpile (conservatively estimated to between 3,000 Kg and 6,000Kg), a fraction of that will suffice to make hundreds of nuclear weapons if India choose to exercise the option.

    3. Indian pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) reactors that are outside IAEA safeguard [and have received sufficient Uranium to convert into?] about 2,400Kg weapon grade Plutonium - enough for 800 strategic nuclear weapons.

    4. Current Indian reserves of Uranium are estimated between 77,500 – 94,000 tonnes, enough to support 12,000 MWe power generation for 50 years.

    5. Current Indian PHWR reactors that are outside IAEA safeguard annually require 116 tonnes of natural-uranium when operated in a mode optimized for power generation. When operated in a mode optimized to generate weapon-grade Plutonium they require just 747 tonnes of natural-uranium annually, in the process they generate 745 Kg weapon grade Plutonium, which is enough for 248 nuclear weapons per year.

    From the figures above one can clearly see that there is no merit in the argument that supplies of Uranium from Australia, Canada or even the US and Russia will be of any consequence to Indian nuclear weapons programs.

    It seems India has mined much more Uranium [in India at a rate higher than consumption for power production] in its 20 power reactors or in its two (weapons grade) plutonium production reactors.

    If there was ever a desire to restrict the amount of Uranium used in the weapon’s program to service power needs this is being further offset by (at least) two influences:

    Supercritical centrifuges for Uranium enrichment - Albright et al have discovered that India is now producing carbon fiber supercritical centrifuges for Uranium enrichment. It may already have the capacity to make all the weapons grade Uranium it needs. Thus regardless of Canadian or Australian Uranium sales, the Indian weapons production will be unconstrained.

    Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (BFBR) - According to Glaser about 150 kg of weapons grade Plutonium will be generated annually in the blankets of the Indian prototype Fast Breeder Reactor. Assuming 5 kg per pit (machining losses etc).

    That is 30 bombs per year in addition to existing capacity (from Dhruva and 8 CANDU units - CIRUS reactor is to be shut down to placate Canada)

    The Tellis report (Atoms for War, Carnegie Endowment, 2006) is particularly interesting (but long). He estimates
    - 45kg of weapons grade Plutonium per each of the eight unsafeguarded 220 MWe CANDU reactors if 1/4 core load is used for low burnup.

    Based on this Anonymous has made the following estimates:

    - assuming India used just 1/8 core loads (less effect on power production) the 8 CANDU reactors would produce 180 kg of weapons grade Pu per year. The power losses could be made up with two thermal (coal fired) power plants.

    - add 30 kg from Dhruva,

    - and the 150 kg from the PFBR, then:

    India can produce a total of 360 kg of Plutonium per year (enough for 72 pits assuming 5 kg required including milling losses). The Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) wants to replace CIRRUS with a bigger version of Dhruva so additional Pu would be available.

    Based on the figues Anonymous estimates that India will have the capacity for 72 thermonuclear devices (hydrogen bombs) a year, using just a fraction of India's indigenous Uranium ore (this means no foreign Uranium directly used).

    3. Agreement With India Will Create Problems for Rudd

    Nuclear issues always cause problems for the Australian Labor Party (ALP) led by Kevin Rudd)) mentioned previously in an earlier post on the possibility of Australian Uranium Enrichment.

    If Australia were to export Uranium to India it will need to negotiate a nuclear safeguard agreement to govern the uses to which Australian uranium can be put.

    If the Howard Government proceeds along these lines before the election it will create some difficulties for Kevin Rudd and the ALP. If Rudd maintains ALP opposition to uranium sales to India he will face political trouble from pro-Indian Australians and from the mining industry. But if Rudd is elected with the anti-uranium policy intact and he pursues the policy in government, he will have to repudiate an agreement, at least in principle, to supply India with uranium.

    Moreover, if the US-India nuclear deal is ratified by both nations' parliaments, it will inevitably win broad international acceptance. A Rudd Labor government would thus be left in the ludicrous position of defending ground that everyone else has long since abandoned.

    Further Comment

    If Sharma's figures are correct, India has far more weapons grade Plutonium than has been previously estimated, more than it would (ever need even if India seeks nuclear parity with its large enemy - China).

    Several Indian reactors are now operating at low capacity due to a shortage of uranium (it will take a few years for the new Uranium mines to begin production) yet India's weapons programs has not visibly been effected. So it seems India is prepared to divert much of its uranium for weapons uses at the expense of civilian nuclear power uses.

    So if there were any overall shortage of Uranium India would choose to burn its high sulphur coal for power in preference to limiting Uranium available for weapons.

    Hence any denial of Australian Uranium may simply increase greenhouse gas emissions in India. In any case India always has alternate sources of Uranium (even if at higher prices) including the US, Canada and Russia.

    I think that if a (centre-right leaning) Rudd Labor Government came to power (the election may be in November 2007 or before) the interests of Uranium mining companies and mine workers would prevail. Rudd would maintain a Uranium sales to India agreement . But Rudd may well renegotiate for strengthened safeguards (some effect but not onerous) clauses to placate Australian environmental and anti-proliferation concerns.