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The Big Picture – Indo-Australian Nuclear Deal: What does it mean?



After years of banning any uranium sale to India, Australia is set to sign a deal with India to supply it for civil nuclear purposes.

Since India had not signed the nuclear non‐proliferation treaty, Australia had stopped selling uranium to India.

India will be benefited from this supply as it provides fuel for nuclear power plants in India. And hence energy sector of India will be immensely benefited.

We have also got uranium imports from Russia, Kazakhsthan, Uzbekistan and France. Canada is also expected to sell in the coming years.

At this point of time, we do not have any fuel deficiency in safeguarded reactors in India. But we have fuel deficiency in unsafeguarded reactors.

Australia has said that they will be supplying uranium with stringent safeguards and they will have to be assured of India’s credentials.

More and more of the significant players in the nuclear arena globally have now come to accept the changed role of India in international nuclear order, despite India not signing the nuclear non‐ proliferation treaty. This deal will put pressure on japan also to sign a deal with India.

This implies that India’s isolation in nuclear environment is being gradually eroded.

Political significance of this deal is quite high.

Bilateral relations will be improved between the two countries.

Indian manufacturers are not keen to supply indigenous reactors to India since they feel that they will be affected by the Nuclear liability law. Australia being the uranium supplier will not be affected by the liability law as it only supplies fuel and not the nuclear power technology.

Implications of the deal:

  1. This is a bad precedence for nuclear disarmament program(Disarmament is said to be a dead horse by some experts).
  1. This may also dilute the provisions of liability law which may put very minimum hook on the suppliers in case of an accident which is very crucial for the Indian people. The nuclear liability law would be changed to accommodate the concerns of stakeholders.

Arguments against the deal:

1: Australian uranium corporations are notorious for victimization of aboriginal communities there in Australia. They have had decade long battles.  Some call it as an apartheid industry. Hence, India, in the long run, would also be victimized.

  1. This supply will indirectly boost India’s nuclear weapon program. Henceforth, India’s domestic uranium reserves will be free to be used for strategic purposes.
  2. It will fuel an insane, unsafe, uneconomic, unaccountable nuclear expansion in India which will be opposed by the people at the grass root level based on environmental concerns, questions of livelihood, safety and so on.
  3. It will deprive India of its real choices. Post Fukushima incident countries are looking for real choices like sustainable energy sources.

Some say that disarmament is an issue only in theory. India calls for total disarmament.

Many feel that Australians are making this deal out of self-interest. They are looking for steady, long term and reliable market. India is one of such potentially large consumer of nuclear fuel.

India should leverage this opportunity to support nuclear disarmament and to promote sustainable and renewable energy policies in the post Fukushima world.