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1 June 1998
DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND
Australia and the European Atomic Energy Community
(Euratom) exchanged diplomatic notes in Canberra on 28 May
1998 as the first step towards bringing into force an
Agreement under which Australia will - subject to certain
conditions - broaden its consent for the return from the
European Union to Japan of Australian obligated plutonium
following the reprocessing of Japanese spent fuel in Europe.
The European Union is an important provider of nuclear fuel
cycle services for countries purchasing Australian uranium
and Japan is a major market for Australian uranium
The new Agreement will represent a further refinement of
Australia's advance consent to plutonium retransfers under
the 1981 Australia-Euratom Agreement concerning Transfers of
Nuclear Material. In September 1993, Australia gave Euratom
its consent for the retransfer from the European Union to
Japan of plutonium bearing both Australian and United States
safeguards obligations; the latter obligation acquired as a
result of Australian nuclear material undergoing processing
at some stage of the fuel cycle in the United States Under
the new treaty-level Agreement Australia will give consent
for the retransfer from the European Union to Japan of the
small proportion of Australian obligated plutonium which
does not also carry a United States safeguards obligation
and is thus not covered by the 1993 agreement.
The refinement of prior consent rights under the
Australia-Euratom Agreement is seen as desirable by both
Euratom and Japan, and is consistent with the practice of
their other major uranium suppliers; Canada and the United
States. The Agreement is consistent with Australia's
non-proliferation and security objectives. Plutonium covered
by the Agreement will continue to be accounted for by the
Australian Safeguards Office.
The Agreement stipulates that retransfers of Australian
obligated plutonium can only take place if it is transported
with plutonium which is subject to the United States-Japan
Agreement on nuclear cooperation - i.e. which also carries a
United States safeguards obligation - and is thereby subject
to the stringent and very detailed security arrangements for
the transport of plutonium which the United States requires
of Japan. The Agreement also provides for direct assurances
from Euratom to Australia concerning the security
arrangements being applied to transfers involving Australian
obligated plutonium. Any retransfers of Australian obligated
plutonium not conforming to the agreed conditions would
continue to require case-by-case consideration by
In accordance with Australia's treaty-making procedures,
the exchanged diplomatic notes constituting the Agreement
will be tabled in Parliament for fifteen sitting days and
considered by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. The
Agreement will enter into force when Australia notifies the
Delegation to the European Commission that all domestic
requirements necessary to give effect to the Agreement have
For further information:
Tony Melville 02 6261 1555