NEW DELHI – Australia and India signed an agreement on Friday allowing the export of Australian uranium to New Delhi for use in power generation.
The deal was signed during a state visit by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who met his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, and other senior officials on Friday.
Australia, which has almost a third of the world’s known uranium reserves, imposes strict conditions on uranium exports and India’s failure to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty had long been a barrier to a trade deal.
Australia and India have been negotiating a nuclear safeguards agreement with verification mechanisms since 2012, when a previous Australian government agreed on civil nuclear energy co-operation with India that would eventually lead to the export of Australian uranium to the energy-starved South Asian nation.
India faces chronic shortages of electricity and about 65 per cent of its installed power generation capacity comes from burning fossil fuels including oil, coal and natural gas. It is eager to expand its nuclear power capacity.
Australia’s decision to sell uranium to India follows a civil nuclear agreement between India and the United States signed in 2008 that allows Washington to sell nuclear fuel and technology to India without it giving up its military nuclear program.
India is seeking a similar agreement with Japan. The two sides reported “significant progress” but failed to reach a last-minute agreement on safeguards sought by Tokyo when Modi was in Japan earlier this month.