The Australian government is negotiating to begin its first uranium exports to China, Australian media reported over the weekend. Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer told The Australian newspaper the issue had been discussed during the visit to Australia last month of Wu Bangguo, chairman of the China National People's Congress. 'We have entered into those discussions and the negotiations are moving ahead reasonably positively,' Mr Downer said. Australia earns about US$300 million a year from uranium exports, even though nuclear energy is banned in the country. 'It is in Australia's national interest, since we export uranium, that there be a global expansion of nuclear energy,' he said. Calls by politicians to lift the ban on nuclear energy have intensified in recent weeks as the government forms its post-Kyoto Treaty environmental policy. The newspaper also quoted science minister Brendan Nelson: 'We're already in the nuclear cycle, with a third of the world's uranium deposits. Sixteen per cent of the world's power is generated by nuclear power. In doing so, 600 million tonnes of carbon [annually] is not spewed into the atmosphere.' The move to begin uranium exports to China coincides with an initiative to reduce global greenhouse emissions set to be unveiled at the United Nations in September by Prime Minister John Howard. The plan emphasises co-operation with the United States, India and China to use technology to reduce levels of energy pollution in the atmosphere. Mr Downer told The Australian any exports to the mainland would be safeguarded and were meant as an unqualified endorsement of nuclear energy as a legitimate tool to lower greenhouse gas emissions. China is seeking to boost its nuclear energy capacity as a solution to chronic energy shortages that disrupt manufacturing and cause widespread power cuts.