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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2716

(Question No. 863)


Senator Bolkus asked the Minister for Resources and Energy, upon notice, on 2 May 1984:

(1) How much Australian uranium has been processed at Oak Ridge in the United States and where is it now.

(2) How many nuclear warheads have been built at Oak ridge since 1977 when Australian uranium was first exported.

(3) What are the internal guarantees or safeguards within Oak Ridge to ensure Australian uranium is not being used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.


Senator Walsh —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) Detailed information on quantities, form and flows of Australian origin nuclear material-AONM-is not disclosed publicly because of considerations of commercial confidentiality. However, on the basis of nuclear materials accountancy records held by the Australian Safeguards Office pursuant to Australia's nuclear safeguards treaty arrangements with the United States, it can be stated that since 1976 2,080,631 kilograms of natural uranium element have been enriched in the United States gaseous diffusion enrichment complex at Oak Ridge, and subsequently transferred for exclusive use as fuel in reactors generating electric power. Approximately 85 per cent of the enriched product has been sent to Japan, and the remainder to the Federal Republic of Germany. Enrichment is carried out subject to the terms and conditions of the agreement between Australia and the United States of America concerning peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Depleted uranium tails from the enrichment process are stored in an area separate from but adjacent to the enrichment complex. They are designated and recorded for safeguards purposes as AONM.

(2) For obvious reasons, the Australian Government is not privy to details concerning United States nuclear weapons production.

(3) Internal guarantees arise from Article 8 of the agreement between Australia and the United States concerning peaceful uses of nuclear energy which specifies that material subject to the agreement is not to be utilised for any nuclear explosive device, research on or development of any such device, nor for any military purpose. Article 9.2 of the agreement in part states that material transferred to the United States shall be subject to safeguards in accordance with the safeguards agreement between the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency-IAEA. I draw the honourable senator's attention to the relevant section of my 4 May statement to the Senate on the Four Corners program on uranium regarding the IAEA's role in accounting for AONM at the Oak Ridge complex.