Under a trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS), Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarine technology. The three nations will identify the optimal pathway to deliver at least eight nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.
Over the next 18 months, Australia, the UK and US will examine the full suite of requirements that underpin nuclear stewardship and demonstrate a clear pathway to becoming a responsible and reliable steward of this sensitive technology. Australia will establish a Nuclear-Powered Submarine Taskforce in the Department of Defence to lead this work.
The Australian Government states that nuclear-powered submarines do not have the same limitations that face conventional submarines on weapons storage, speed and endurance. They can stay completely submerged for many months, limiting the opportunities for detection by adversaries.
“Australia has no plans to acquire nuclear weapons and this proposal will remain consistent with Australia’s longstanding commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. All three nations are deeply committed to upholding leadership on global non-proliferation,” Mr Morrison said.
“The Government’s intention is to build the nuclear-powered submarines in South Australia, maximising the use of Australian workers.”
“Building the submarines in Australia is the best way to develop a strong and effective sustainment industry, which will enable us to meet every requirement to safely operate and maintain nuclear-powered submarines,” he said.
The Australian Nuclear Association (ANA) said Australia has more than 60 years’ experience across the nuclear fuel cycle including uranium mining, nuclear reactor operations (OPAL, MOATA and HIFAR) and medical radioisotope production. It further stated that operating nuclear-power submarines will enhance Australia’s local manufacturing and R&D capability.
ANA President, Dr Joanne Lackenby, said: “Australia already operates and manages sophisticated nuclear technologies and has considerable expertise in this field. Today’s announcement will facilitate an expansion of this nuclear expertise and enhance Australia’s STEM sector.”
AUKUS will also focus on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence and quantum technologies.