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Friday, January 05, 2007

Australia to sell uranium to China

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Australian uranium exports to China could begin as early as next month after the two countries ratified key nuclear safeguards agreements this week, Australia's foreign minister said Friday.

In a brief statement, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Canberra and Beijing ratified the two agreements which were signed earlier this year through an exchange of diplomatic notes in Beijing on Thursday.

"The agreements will enter into force 30 days after ratification," he said. "Accordingly, the legal framework for Australian uranium producers to commence exports to China is expected to be in place early in 2007."

The two treaties -- the Australia-China Nuclear Transfer Agreement and the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement -- were signed in April during a visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to Canberra.

The agreements ensure any uranium and any nuclear-related material, equipment or technology exported to China will be used solely for peaceful, non-military purposes. The pact also bans China from transferring Australian uranium to a third country or reprocessing the material without Australian consent.

If China breaks any part of the nuclear agreements, Australia has the right to cancel future exports of uranium.

China plans to quadruple its nuclear-energy output by 2020 and requires imported uranium to achieve this, the Australian treaties committee said.

Australia holds around 40 percent of all known uranium reserves and accounts for about 23 percent of global production of the fuel. In 2005, Australia earned $449 million from uranium exports from record production of more than 12,000 tons.
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