The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

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Media Release

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer
13 August 2001 / FA124

Safeguards Arrangements for Uranium Exports to Taiwan

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, announced today that an Agreement was concluded in Washington on 31 July 2001 with the United States, which will facilitate the sale of Australian uranium to Taiwan.

The Agreement is consistent with the terms of Australia's recognition of the People's Republic of China in 1972, and Australia's role as a major supplier of energy and minerals commodities to Taiwan.  The Australian Government has kept the Chinese Government fully informed of the proposed Agreement.

All of Australia's uranium is exported for exclusively peaceful purposes under bilateral safeguards agreements.  Australia currently has 15 such agreements in place, covering 25 countries (one is with the European Atomic Energy Community, Euratom).  Australia's network of nuclear bilateral safeguards agreements complements and builds upon the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) safeguards regime.

Australia does not recognise Taiwan as a state and it is therefore not possible to negotiate a bilateral safeguards agreement with Taiwan.  Australia, however, recognises that Taiwan has legitimate energy needs and that it has chosen nuclear power as part of its energy mix.  Accordingly, an Agreement has been concluded with the United States providing for Australian uranium to be enriched in the United States, after which it would be transferred to Taiwan.  Australian uranium destined for the Taiwan market will thereby be covered by the nuclear safeguards agreement between Australia and the United States, and agreements between the United States, Taiwan, and the IAEA.  This arrangement is similar to one made by Canada in 1993.

Taiwan has made clear its strong commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, including through welcoming the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995.  Furthermore, it has accepted international safeguards on all its nuclear activities, including being amongst the first to implement the terms and conditions of the Additional Protocol for strengthened IAEA safeguards.  Taiwan has also publicly stated in its '2000 National Defense Report" that its armed forces will not own, manufacture, or use nuclear weapons.

The Agreement is consistent with Australia's strong stance on preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons while allowing the export of uranium for peaceful uses.  It ensures that any transfer of Australian uranium to Taiwan is subject to IAEA safeguards and complies with Australia's longstanding policies for the control of nuclear materials.

It is anticipated that the Agreement will be tabled in Parliament this year.  It will enter into force once Australia completes its domestic requirements.

Media inquiries:  Matt Francis (Ministerial) 02 672777 500, Julie McDonald (Departmental) 02 6261 1555

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