5 Dec 2011

ALP backs uranium sales to India

5:22 am on 5 December 2011

The Australian Labor Party has voted to overturn a long-standing ban on exporting uranium to India.

Australia, which holds an estimated 40% of the world's uranium, already exports it to China, Japan, Taiwan and the United States reports the BBC.

Australia has excluded sales to India because it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

During a passionate debate on the issue at Labor's annual conference, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the change would be in the country's interests.

Labor delegates to the conference voted 206-185 in favour of the motion to change the party's policy.

"At this conference we should take a decision in the national interest, a decision about strengthening our strategic partnership with India in this the Asian century," Ms Gillard said.

She said any agreement to sell uranium to India would include strict safeguards to ensure it would only be used for civilian purposes, and not end up in nuclear weapons.

Australia's uranium industry has welcomed the policy shift.

But the ABC reports Ms Gillard faced opposition from some of her own ministers, including Stephen Conroy, Tanya Plibersek and Peter Garrett.

One of those opposing Ms Gillard's view was Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese.

"It is the case that nine months after the Fukushima nuclear disaster is not the time to be expanding our uranium exports," he said ahead of the conference.

Mr Albanese said the fact that India had not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and that nuclear waste was difficult to deal with were "two unresolved issues".