Commentary | 28 November 2011

Uranium Debate : Australia’s uranium puzzle: Why China and Russia but not India?

In December 2011, the Australian Labor Party changed its policy platform to allow uranium exports to India, following an intense debate. The Lowy Institute’s Rory Medcalf had analysed this issue closely over the preceding years, and on the eve of the Labor conference published this paper, challenging the myths and misconceptions and the nature and effect of Australia’s uranium export policies towards major powers such as China, Russia and India.

‘Contrary to the crude assertions of some critics, government decisions about uranium exports are not a simple trade-off between proliferation risk and export earnings.’

In December 2011, the Australian Labor Party changed its policy platform to allow uranium exports to India, following an intense debate. The Lowy Institute’s Rory Medcalf had analysed this issue closely over the preceding years, and on the eve of the Labor conference published this paper, challenging the myths and misconceptions and the nature and effect of Australia’s uranium export policies towards major powers such as China, Russia and India.

‘Contrary to the crude assertions of some critics, government decisions about uranium exports are not a simple trade-off between proliferation risk and export earnings.’

Key Findings

  • Australian uranium export policy has never been based on non-proliferation or economic criteria alone.
  • Geopolitics, diplomacy and domestic politics are all important factors.
  • Australian uranium policy decisions on their own will not affect India’s or other countries’ decisions about advancing or abandoning their nuclear weapons programs.