Canada sells out on nuclear trade with India

Cameco's uranium conversion facility in Port Hope, Ontario

Cameco's uranium conversion facility in Port Hope, Ontario

“If civilian nuclear cooperation is to be a primary fixture and symbol of the cordialization of Indo-Canadian relations,” writes CIGI Fellow Ernie Regehr, “it should be built on the most robust of nonproliferation conditions.” (Ernie Regehr, “The Canada-India civilian nuclear cooperation deal,” Disarming Conflict blog, 29 June 2010)

Unfortunately, the deal that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed last Sunday following the G-20 Summit doesn’t meet that crucial standard:

In the likely event of Canadian uranium sales to India, for example, Canadians can be assured that uranium from this country will not find its way into Indian bombs. But if Prime Minister Harper were asked to also assure Canadians that the sale of Canadian uranium to India would not in any way make it possible for India to accelerate its production of fissile material for weapons purposes, he could not credibly do so.

India’s current production of fissile material is limited by its relatively small domestic uranium supply, which has to supply both its civilian nuclear power program and its military nuclear weapons program. The Canada-India deal will remove that current limitation: “once it is able to import uranium for its civilian needs [India] will be in a position to use more and perhaps all of its domestic uranium for military purposes.”

And that, notes Regehr, could add further fuel to the already dangerous nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan.

Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament are longstanding goals of Canadian foreign policy.

But business is business, and the Canadian government has apparently concluded that increased nuclear peril is a small price to pay when lucrative uranium sales are on the line.

Further coverage:

Bill Curry, “Canada signs nuclear deal with India,” Globe and Mail, 27 June 2010

Photo by davidjwidmann

Tags: Canada, Ernie Regehr, India, Non-proliferation, Nuclear trade, Nuclear weapons, Pakistan, Uranium sales