Friday, August 22, 2008

Nuclear Suppliers Group Meets in Vienna

The Nuclear Suppliers Group is being asked to approve the sale of uranium to India for its civilian power industry after the India-US deal. They are meeting in Vienna currently. I've posted on this before and it appears that Australia will indeed support this development.

However the vote must be unanimous and New Zealand has emerged publicly as a sceptic. Phil Goff has been interviewed here.

He comments that

GOFF: This is an exemption that is being sought, normally an agreement of this nature would not be approved for a country that was not a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. So New Zealand will be working with other countries that I think are of a like mind; countries such as Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and so on to try to find a way of accommodating the desires of the Indian and the American governments while ensuring that any exemption granted would be supportive of non-proliferation rather than working in the opposite direction.

Goff says that at the least India would be required not to test nuclear weapons and signals that New Zealand is looking for various other safeguards but seems to suggest the deal may well go through.

LOPRESTI: And just finally have you hard any rumblings as yet from Vienna as to which way the NSG, the Nuclear Suppliers Group will go on this?

GOFF: Well the Nuclear Suppliers Group it will meet over two days but a number of countries will bring in the requirement for a number of safeguards. One of them is about nuclear testing that we've talked about, but we would also like to see India join up to the IAEA additional protocol allowing broader inspection and access powers. We would also like to see constraints on transfers of sensitive technologies, we would like to see a review mechanism built into any exemption, and we would like to see a termination clause that if India opted out of the safeguards agreement it would need to return its goods and technology received as part of the exemption. None of those things are exceptionable in my view, none of them are unreasonable, they're the sort of safeguards that you would want to have if this agreement is to progress.

So I am happy that we are holding out for stronger safeguards. I'd also like to see India being asked to affirm the goal of eventual disarmament like the nuclear-armed NPT signatories. It seems though that the writing is on the wall for an Indian exemption to the provisions of the NPT and I can't shake the feeling that this is yet another setback for nonproliferation efforts.

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