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Canada to sell uranium to China

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

The Canadian government of Stephen Harper has chosen to override the qualms of the government's non-proliferation experts to permit a multibillion-dollar business in exports of Saskatchewan uranium to China's nuclear industry. A deal the Prime Minister announced in China on February 9, a protocol amending Canada's nuclear co-operation agreement with China to allow the export of uranium concentrate, seals far closer ties with Beijing than ever seemed possible in Mr. Harper's early days in power.

Canada may be seen as playing an important role in undermining the precarious nuclear non-proliferation regime -- one that has been in danger of coming unraveled for decades because of the hypocritical double standard that is at the heart of the regime. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) makes a sharp distinction between "Nuclear Weapons States" and "Non-Nuclear Weapons States".  The Treaty is frankly discriminatory and imposes different obligations on the two "types" of nations. The "nuclear have-nots" are required to submit to international inspections of all their nuclear facilities and must promise never to use nuclear technology or nuclear materials for weapons purposes.  These requirements do not apply to the official "nuclear have" nations designated as only five in number: the USA, Russia, Britain, France, and China.

However, Article 6 of the NPT requires that Nuclear Weapons States act in good faith to eliminate their nuclear arsenals as soon as possible. This obligation has been upheld by the World Court as a legal requirement that is binding on the Nuclear Weapons States. Yet they continue to ignore it.

Any country that acquires nuclear weapons in the absence of or in defiance of the NPT -- Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea, for example -- are not supposed to exist.  And they are not supposed to receive nuclear assistance, nuclear facilities, or nuclear materials from nations who have signed the NPT. But Canada has resumed nuclear cooperation and trade with India despite the fact that India developed nuclear weapons using Canadian technology initially and has not signed the NPT. And Canada is now willing to sell uranium to Nuclear Weapons States like China.

The deal with Beijing has raised concerns in Ottawa, because it includes less stringent accounting for how the uranium is used than Canada typically demands, sources said. When Australia made a similar deal with China in 2008 that included less accountability, it faced criticism from other uranium suppliers, including Canada. China insisted on getting the same sort of accounting requirements for Canadian exports that it got from Australia. As well as using uranium for other purposes, it also has military nuclear programs, which are not subject to accounting or inspection.

The message seems to be that business concerns are, for the self-styled "Harper government", far more important than nuclear non-proliferation objectives. If Canada were determined to achieve a world without nuclear weapons, she would refuse to sell uranium to any nation that maintains a nuclear arsenal unless that nation formally renounces nuclear weapons and works overtly for the total elimination of such weapons of mass destruction. For even if Canadian uranium is only used for civilian purposes, it surely frees up other uranium so it that can be used in nuclear weapons -- uranium that would otherwise have to be used as fuel for nuclear reactors.

Source: Globe & Mail, 10 February 2012 / Gordon Edwards, email 11 February 2012
Contact: Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. c.p. 236, Station Snowdon, Montréal QC, H3X 3T4 Canada
Email: ccnr[at]