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Russia to import Australian uranium

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard has greenlighted uranium exports to Russia, reviving a controversial deal initially brokered by the Howard government. Gillard ratified an agreement with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev on 12 November at the G20 summit in Seoul. Originally the deal was blocked by a parliamentary committee which demanded Russia met a series of safety conditions, with the result uranium exports to Russia had to be sold on to another country. Gillard said the agreement meets all Australia’s and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s nuclear safeguards. It will allow Russia to use the Australian uranium locally for nuclear power, as the United States, China, Japan and South Korea do. About 10,500 tonnes of uranium valued at $1.1 billion is exported from Australia’s three mines each year. The new agreement has sparked speculation in the mining industry that the Gillard government may also enter into an agreement with India, provided it meets the import condition of signing the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is visiting Australia late in 2011. Australia currently sells all its mined uranium but there are plans for new operations to be established. Gillard said the agreement with Russia will create employment and consolidate Australia’s position as a reliable provider of energy resources.

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