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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 116


Senator SANDERS(10.17) —The Australian Democrats support the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Bill, although we feel that it is a classic case of bolting the barn door after the horses have long since disappeared over the farthest hill. The time for this Bill and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would have been in 1945. Now there are 50,000 nuclear weapons around the world; they have proliferated. The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty has simply not worked. Anybody who did not want to sign it did not sign it. Those who did sign it and had nuclear weapons were allowed to continue to produce nuclear weapons. As a result in the world today not only do the super-powers have nuclear weapons but minor powers have them as well.

This Bill enacts obligations under the NPT and other international agreements and places controls over movement of nuclear materials and technology within Australia and formally establishes an Australian Safeguards Office to administer those controls and trace Australian origin nuclear material and technology overseas. I am less interested in discussing the Bill than the agreement on which it is based. The NPT has two glaring weaknesses that cannot be papered over by the legitimacy of legislation. First, it seeks to stop countries from acquiring nuclear weapons while promoting the civilian use of nuclear energy at the same time. This is a major conflict of interest. We have seen over and over again that the military and so-called peaceful uses are inseparable. Civilian reactors used for power production are also producing plutonium which is used for weapons. In fact, most of the weapons produced by the Third World nations have been produced from civilian power reactors. The two technologies are not only related; they are identical. The success, or lack of success, of the NPT should be judged in light of the fact that South Africa, India, Pakistan and Israel are capable of producing nuclear weapons, while Argentina and Brazil are not far behind.

Israel should now be referred to as the world's sixth nuclear power. The revelations of Israeli nuclear technician Mordecai Vanunu, who is now on trial for his life in Israel, leave no doubt that Israel has up to 200 nuclear weapons, including thermonuclear bombs. Let no one in this chamber doubt that if Israel felt under threat of annihilation it would start bombing capitals nearby, such as Damascus. It would react in this way simply because it would have no choice if it were being overrun. How did Israel get this technology? It was through the civilian nuclear fuel cycle and a secret reprocessing plant. That is the trouble with safeguards: They do not work if somebody wants to keep an item secret. How did the Israelis achieve the technology? Who helped them? It was France, through the supply of nuclear technology and information on the design of nuclear weapons.

France keeps cropping up in nuclear matters. This is the France to which the Government has now okayed the selling of uranium; this is the France which is testing nuclear weapons in the Pacific, which the French, of course, claim is France but which we know certainly is not France. If these tests are so safe it would be far cheaper to have them in continental France, not in a colony of France. France is the country which, on the best evidence, is about to switch its testing grounds from Mururoa Atoll to the Kerguelens. The Kerguelens are upwind of Western Australia and Tasmania. Any leakage into the atmosphere from the Kerguelens will come across the Australian continent. There will also be great damage to the wildlife in the area of the Kerguelens. So France helped Israel. Were there any safeguards? No, there were not. Were any Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty covenants involved? No, there were not. France is not a signatory; nor is Israel.

The second glaring weakness of the NPT is that it requires the nuclear weapons nations to work in good faith towards disarmament. The reverse has happened. The arms race is accelerating dangerously. This seriously undermines the non-proliferation regime by setting a poor example to nations tempted to join the nuclear club. Australia helps to weaken the cause of non-proliferation. We export uranium to several countries, including three nuclear weapon states-France, Britain and the United States-and we give the nod to the arms race by remaining the yes men of what is left of ANZUS. No legislation will compensate for the damage that Australia's policies in these areas are doing to the non-proliferation regime.

There is no real way to implement the safeguards. In these chambers we have actually discovered the devious route of Australian uranium to France, to Russia and, finally, to Finland. The way it works is that we sell our yellowcake to Finland for use in its nuclear reactors, but the route it takes is, first, to France for conversion into uranium hexafluoride. Until very recently there were no safeguards over our yellowcake in France. In any event, France has proven to be very untrustworthy in nuclear matters. In fact, the French are the hooligans of the world nuclear establishment. Our yellowcake goes to France where it is converted into uranium hexafluoride-a gas. This gas is then transported to the Soviet Union where it is added to the large pool of Soviet uranium and enriched to reactor grade uranium. We have no safeguards officers in the Soviet Union. We have no way of checking what goes on in the Soviet Union. All we do is say that so many kilograms of uranium hexafluoride go into the Soviet Union and so many kilograms of enriched uranium come out and that therefore we know where it all went. But we do not know exactly where it went and we have found over and over again-at least in the United States-that the companies enriching the uranium cannot account for all their uranium or plutonium. Certainly there is no way for us to account for what happens in the Soviet Union.

This enriched uranium still does not go directly to Finland; it goes to West Germany or Sweden, where it is converted into fuel rods. Again, supposedly, we keep track of the uranium and it ends up in Finland. A disturbing segment of this fuel cycle is that the tails of the enrichment program are sent from the Soviet Union back to France. The Australian Democrats, through questioning in the Senate, discovered that 159,000 kilograms of uranium tails are in France. This material is very capable of being used in French fast breeder reactors for the production of plutonium. The French have a requirement for a number of new nuclear weapons. This is why they are testing the weapons at Mururoa Atoll.

The way they will obtain their plutonium is through their Phenix and Super Phenix fast breeder reactors. This is the main way that they will get their plutonium. The main way of getting plutonium is by putting tails from the enrichment process as a blanket in the fast breeder reactor. The Australian tails are supposedly there. As the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Gareth Evans, has stated, the tails do not actually have a flag on them like a toothpick in an olive, saying: `These tails belong to Australia'. This is an accounting procedure. In some place in France there are 159,000 kilograms of uranium tails which originated in Australia. We do not know exactly where they are. Neither does the Safeguards Office, but it says that they are in existence. This really means-as in the case of selling uranium to France in the first place-that even if the uranium is used for peaceful purposes it liberates this material for use in war items.

So safeguards are meaningless. There is no real way to implement them. The truism of the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear weapons production is that they breed not only fear but secrecy. In practice, no country which has either a nuclear weapons technology or a nuclear power industry can operate without extreme secrecy. On the one hand, such countries claim that because of the difficulties caused by terrorism and sabotage they must not give out facts. In the commercial industry there is secrecy because of the commercial nature of the process and reluctance to allow a competitor to find out trade secrets.

The nuclear power industry and nuclear weapons industry are shrouded in secrecy. This makes it doubly difficult for any safeguards to operate. We must then take the word of many of the companies and governments involved, and of course this is not good enough. Recently the Australian Broadcasting Corporation showed a six-part series called the Edge of Darkness. It was fiction, but it showed the difficulties involved in an average person in the British Isles finding out what was happening in the nuclear power industry. Very briefly, the plot involved an illegal enrichment plant operating under the guise of a reprocessing plant. It got very convoluted and complicated, but the message was very clear: The government was in on it, the military was in on it, the uranium industry and the nuclear power industry were in on it; but the people were kept in the dark and those who tried to find out about it were killed for their troubles. This is the problem of the nuclear industry. It cannot operate in the full light of publicity with full safeguards.

We will attempt to amend this Bill by requiring a report to be issued annually on the exact location of all the Australian fissile material and the location of the uranium which is being shipped, has been shipped, is being enriched and is being reprocessed. This report shall be given every year and be made public.

Debate interrupted.