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Aukus nuclear submarine deal loophole prompts proliferation fears

The scheme allowing nuclear materials in Australian submarines worries experts about the precedent of safeguard removal

Julian Borger in Washington, Guardian, 4 Mar 23

The Aukus scheme announced on Monday in San Diego represents the first time a loophole in the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has been used to transfer fissile material and nuclear technology from a nuclear weapons state to a non-weapons state.

The loophole is paragraph 14, and it allows fissile material utilized for non-explosive military use, like naval propulsion, to be exempt from inspections and monitoring by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It makes arms controls experts nervous because it sets a precedent that could be used by others to hide highly enriched uranium, or plutonium, the core of a nuclear weapon, from international oversight………….

To mitigate the proliferation risk, the Australians have agreed not to have a training reactor on their territory, but train their submariners in the US and the UK instead. Australia will not enrich or reprocess the spent nuclear fuel, and the fissile material provided by the US and the UK will come in welded units that do not have to be refueled in their lifetime. Australia has undertaken not to acquire the equipment necessary to chemically reprocess spent fuel that would make it usable in a weapon.

…………. James Acton, co-director of the nuclear policy programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said. “But I still think there is real and concrete harm done.

“The primary problem with Aukus was always the precedent set, that Australia would be the first country that would remove nuclear fuel from safeguards for use in naval reactors,” Acton added. “My fear was never that Australia would misuse that fuel, but that other countries would invoke Aukus as a precedent for removing nuclear fuel from safeguards.”

“The primary problem with Aukus was always the precedent set, that Australia would be the first country that would remove nuclear fuel from safeguards for use in naval reactors,” Acton added. “My fear was never that Australia would misuse that fuel, but that other countries would invoke Aukus as a precedent for removing nuclear fuel from safeguards.”  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/mar/13/aukus-australian-submarine-nuclear-loophole-proliferation-fears

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March 14, 2023 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA, weapons and war

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