Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Trade and Security
Nuclear Exports and Safeguards
Australia's uranium export policy acknowledges the strategic significance which distinguishes uranium from other energy commodities. Australian policy has consistently recognised that special arrangements need to be put in place to distinguish between the civil and military applications of nuclear energy.
Australia's uranium export policy embodies fundamental tenets first outlined in 1977, adjusted to reflect a number of international and domestic developments in the intervening period. It provides assurances that exported uranium and its derivatives cannot benefit the development of nuclear weapons or be used in other military programs. This is done by precisely accounting for amounts of Australian-Obligated Nuclear Material (AONM) as it moves through the nuclear fuel cycle. At the same time, the policy recognises the needs of customer countries and the nuclear industry for predictability about the way Australia exercises the non-proliferation conditions governing its uranium supply.
In summary, Australia's policy is that:
- Australian uranium may only be exported for peaceful non-explosive purposes under Australia's network of bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements, which provide for:
- coverage by IAEA safeguards
- fallback safeguards in the event that IAEA safeguards no longer apply for any reason
- prior Australian consent for any transfer of AONM to a third party, for any enrichment beyond 20 per cent of uranium-235 and for reprocessing of AONM, and
- physical security requirements.
- Australia retains the right to be selective as to the countries with which it is prepared to conclude safeguards arrangements.
- Customer countries must be a party to the NPT. In the case of India an exception has been granted on the basis of the 2008 decision of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the application of IAEA safeguards to India's civil nuclear facilities and separation of the Indian civilian and military nuclear programs.
- NPT Non-Nuclear Weapon State customer countries must at a minimum be a party to the NPT and have concluded a fullscope safeguards Agreement with the IAEA
- Nuclear weapon state customer countries must provide an assurance that AONM will not be diverted to non-peaceful or explosive uses and accept coverage of AONM by IAEA safeguards.
- Commercial contracts for the export of Australian uranium should include a clause noting that the contract is subject to the relevant bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement.
- The Australian Government has further tightened Australia's export policy by making an Additional Protocol with the IAEA (providing for strengthened safeguards) a pre-condition for the supply of Australian obligated uranium to all states.
Information on Australia's uranium industry can be found on the Department of Industry website.