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MEP questions US nuclear double standard over deal on submarines fueled with weapon grade uranium

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Collins Class submarines HMAS Collins, HMAS Farncomb, HMAS Dechaineux and HMAS Sheean are seen in formation while transiting through Cockburn Sound, Western Australia. (Photo via website of Australian Navy)

An independent Member of the European Parliament (MEP) has hit out at US nuclear double standards, arguing the US does not want Iran to enrich uranium beyond the 3.67 percent purity but it helps Australia get submarines fueled with weapon-grade uranium.

In a post on Twitter, Mick Wallace called into question the US decision to help Australia get its first nuclear-powered submarine under a deal known as AUKUS.

“US doesn't want #Iran to enrich uranium beyond 3.67 % but have no problem supplying #Australia with US nuclear submarines that use bomb grade uranium,” said part of the tweet.

The Irish politician said the move could amount to violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). He also rebuked the US and its allies for making up rules, although claiming to adhere to the rules-based international order.

“Is this a violation of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? Is 'Rules based International Order' #US + Allies making up the rules?” he asked.

The UK, Australia and the US have agreed a partnership to boost their defenses and share advanced technologies, including the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines. 

The trio, now known by the acronym AUKUS, will see Australia cancel a contract to buy diesel-electric French submarines and instead build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using technology provided by the US. A transfer of this scale is also the first of its kind. 

Experts say the US decision to sell nuclear-powered submarines to Australia has put at risk longstanding but fragile global pacts to prevent the proliferation of dangerous nuclear technologies and could encourage other countries to freely sell their nuclear technology, and thus potentially expanding the number of countries who can build nuclear weapons.

The submarines used by the US Navy and also the British use highly enriched uranium, or HEU, enriched to a level of 93 percent -- the same level of uranium concentration necessary for a powerful nuclear weapon.

Only six countries -- the US, Britain, France, China, India and Russia -- have nuclear-powered submarines. 

The latest deal will make Australia the seventh nation to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

This comes as the US and its Western allies who have decided to sell to Australia military nuclear submarines that run on uranium enriched to a level of more than 90 percent have been scolding Iran for seeking to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes – mainly the production of electricity.

Speaking at the 65th regular session of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on September 22, Iran’s permanent ambassador to Vienna-based international organizations criticized the West for falsely accusing Iran of pursuing non-civilian nuclear technology while inking a deal on the provision of submarines fueled with weapon-grade uranium to another country.

“It is regrettable that the countries that scold Iran for enriching uranium up to 60 percent for humanitarian and peaceful purposes have now decided to sell to Australia military nuclear submarines that run on uranium enriched to a level of more than 90 percent,” Kazem Gharibabadi said.

In his remarks, Gharibabadi pointed to Iran’s conviction that every IAEA member state has the right to pursue its peaceful nuclear program, regardless of the level of enrichment, solely on the basis of its own needs and in accordance with the IAEA safeguards, but underlined the need for necessary safeguards arrangements in place to ensure civilian nature of their nuclear programs.

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