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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2296

Senator WALSH (Minister for Resources and Energy)(9.56) —I would be surprised if Japan was the only country which had not fully satisfied its anticipated enrichment requirement for the 1990s. I expect that quite a few countries have not done that. Many enrichment plants have not filled their order books for the same period. Therefore, there is a potential on both sides. Senator Sir John Carrick's second point-I do not think it has much relevance to the Estimates, Mr Chairman, but I will mention it-is correct. Uranium being enriched for reactor fuel rods falls very far short indeed of that required for bombs. I think that for really efficient enrichment uranium bombs a level of purity for a U235 of about 90 per cent is required. That is something which is extremely difficult to get even technically.

In the context of the Slatyer report, it seems to me that what Senator Sir John Carrick is getting at is that if Australia were the only enriched uranium supplier to the world and we were supplying uranium enriched to 3.7 per cent, or whatever it is, nobody could make a U235 bomb. That is correct. I think the point that the Australian Science and Technology Council report was getting at was something different. That is, if any one country had the complete facilities for the nuclear fuel cycle, including an enrichment plant which normally operated to enrich uranium to reactor requirement levels of U235 concentration, they could conceivably at some time be misused by some countries to produce weapons grade enriched uranium; whereas if the various facilities in the chain were located in different countries it would require a conspiracy involving several countries before a weapon could be produced from it.