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

Media Release

27 April 2007

Negotiations to Expand the Australia-Russia Nuclear Safeguards Agreement

I am pleased to announce that Australia and the Russian Federation have commenced consultations on expanding the 1990 Australia-Russia agreement concerning the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, to bring the scope of the agreement into line with Australia's other bilateral safeguards agreements.

The proposed new agreement would allow Australian uranium producers to supply Russia's nuclear power industry, and would retain and build on the strict safeguards conditions contained in the current agreement, and Australia's other safeguards agreements.

Australian and Russian officials met in Canberra to discuss the proposed new agreement on 23 to 26 April 2007.  Discussions proceeded in a positive and constructive atmosphere, and substantial progress was made.  A further meeting is planned for Moscow in late May.

Reflecting the interests of the parties in 1990, the existing agreement covers processing (conversion, enrichment or fuel fabrication) of Australian uranium in Russia on behalf of third countries, but does not provide for use of Australian uranium by Russia itself. 

A key factor in the decision to negotiate a new agreement is Russia's action, announced last year, to clearly separate its military and civil nuclear programs, and to place civil facilities under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. 

Providing for uranium exports to Russia is consistent with the growing trade relationship between our two countries.  Russia has plans for significant expansion of its nuclear power industry over the coming decade.  This will have clear environmental benefits over relying on fossil fuels for base-load power.  Having the world's largest uranium resources, Australia has a particular responsibility and opportunity to contribute to major nuclear power programs, and leads by example in the application of strict safeguards.

The proposed agreement is also expected to provide a framework for broader scientific and commercial cooperation between Australia and Russia. 

The States and Territories will be kept advised of the negotiations.  In accordance with Australian treaty-making practice the agreement will be tabled in Parliament for review by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties when negotiations have been finalised and in advance of binding treaty action being taken.

Media Inquiries: Mr Downer's office 02 6277 7500 - Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555

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