Value-subtracting: Form vs. substance in Australian uranium safeguard policy

Nuclear energy Australia

Richard Leaver of Flinders University writes that the Australian activist foreign policy tradition in disarmament has long been “in a state of decline, and the main source of this slippage has been the gradual triumph of form over substance in the realm of safeguards and disarmament diplomacy.” A glutted uranium market meant that “Canberra came under pressure to compromise on its safeguards standards in order to secure any sales at all”, especially to its main customers, nuclear weapons states. Leaver emphasizes the futility of the contemporary situation that has seen Australian acquiesce to the Indian exemption in the Nuclear Suppliers Group come together with a formalistic reiteration of demands that India sign the NPT. “Now that India has effectively been given ‘exceptional’ status as a nuclear weapon state via the 123 agreement,” Leaver concludes, “it is hard to think of a phrase that adequately captures the low standing of Australian policy; wishful thinking does not go nearly far enough”. He concludes with suggestions for reversing the decline, beginning with policy towards India. 

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