The report by the US think tank the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) follows Labour’s proposal, ratified at its party conference late last year, to overturn its long-held stance against selling uranium to India, which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Greens party’s nuclear spokesman Scott Ludlam has been quoted by The Age as saying that the report highlighted how far India had to go in meeting the standards Australia should demand.
“I think this is going to force the government to put some teeth into this so-called safeguards agreement, which doesn’t address the kinds of issues that the NTI is putting down in their paper,” Senator Ludlam said. “I think it’s a massive wake-up call that, first of all, the change of policy at the end of last year was a mistake,” Senator Ludlam said.
As part of its deal with India, Australia is negotiating a treaty to guarantee safeguards on its uranium exports.
The NTI’s report rated India as below average on a number of issues including transparency, corruption, the number of sites where material was stored, the independence of regulators and security during transport. The findings have been welcomed by Australian Uranium Association chief executive Michael Angwin who pointed out the NTI itself had stressed it was not looking to name and shame India or any other country.
“We certainly expect the Australian government to take India’s nuclear security into account in negotiating the bilateral treaty and the government will be in the best position to make a judgment about the impact of nuclear security on the treaty,” he said.
India, he added, had signed the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said last night that the purpose of the Nuclear Security Index was to highlight potential areas for improvement in nuclear security by raising awareness.