Aussies looking at nuke subs?

Are the Australians considering the use of nuclear submarines for their Navy? It would seem they are at least exploring the options.

Aside from a pair of research reactors, Australia hasn’t shown much interest in nuclear power. Will that change? It could, at least as far as the Royal Australian Navy is concerned, according to a green paper by University College London (UCL). Published on August 12, the discussion paper argues that it is entirely feasible for Australia to replace its aging fleet of diesel submarines with nuclear-powered craft for about the same cost as the conventional design currently under consideration.

Australia’s current fleet of six Collins-class submarines are at the end of their service life and will need replacement by the late 2020s. A 2013 Australian government white paper by the states that the government is committed to building a replacement for the Collins class in South Australia and that this will be an “evolved” Collins using diesel power rather than a nuclear design.  

Written by UCL’s International Energy Policy Institute in Adelaide, the new discussion paper does not directly advocate a nuclear fleet and doesn’t address strategic, tactical or political questions in detail. It’s intended to spark a debate about what sort of submarines could be selected when it comes time to decide on how to replace Australia’s current submarine fleet.

The UCL paper is based on the requirements laid out by the government that the new submarines must have increased range, endurance and strike capability compared the the Collins class. The conclusion is that a nuclear craft would be the best fit for fulfilling those requirements.

Awesome…here’s hoping they seriously consider it, if only to watch the look on the Greens faces.

The authors argue that a nuclear sub would have a significant impact on the pacific region by providing a deterrent advantage because they can remain submerged indefinitely, have high speed and deploy quickly. They also state that operating nuclear-powered subs would give Australia expertise useful in international nuclear regulation and would not violate the non-proliferation treaty, which does not cover nuclear submarines, because it’s the fuel cycle that’s important, not a submarine reactor entirely unsuitable for building weapons.

As far as the costs are concerned, the paper concludes that a nuclear submarine would be competitive with a modified Collins-class submarine. According to the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a USS Virginia class submarine would more reliable and cost effective than an evolved Collins class submarine and the same applies to a British Astute class submarine. The authors set the overall costs of a nuclear replacement at between A$2 billion and A$3 billion (US$1.8 billion to US$2.7 billion).


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  • Patrick

    Be great if they did but cannot see it in the near future – Gillard/Rudd have seen to that with the way they have squandered all the money from the last economic boom. Subs don’t come cheap.

  • AngryTory

    Who gives a shit how the subs are powered? What Oz really needs are strategic weapons on the subs (and yes, that only makes sense on nuke boats…).

    Then they can get really serious about e.g. ultimata regarding boat people…

    • IWantToBeLikeMallardOneDay

      Torpedoing the boats?

  • tarkwin

    I can understand the logic. Buy something nuclear, Russel will stay away. There could be something in this, announce we’re building a reactor in Auckland. Half the desirable inner suburbs and most of Waiheke will empty out. Houses will become more affordable and the whole place will become more productive because the people moving in will be workers while the ones moving out will be artists, consultants, critics, social workers, social justice enablers, house dressers and chardonay socialists in general. It’s a great idea!

  • cows4me

    I guess they won’t have to pay to fill it up, plenty of uranium in Aussie.

  • Woodburner

    Plenty of Los Angeles class subs making their way toward retirement… and it seems the US isn’t too adverse at selling its hand-me-downs to the Aussies

    • Honcho

      Unlike this country, the aussies don’t settle for handme downs. All of their procurements have been for the most part cutting edge, as were the Collins class when they were introduced to service, the most advanced conventionally powered sub in the world. I would expect Australia if anything to join the USA when they purchase new subs as an early adopter of the newest technology.

  • AnonWgtn

    The ay the Aussie Navy drive ships I would want to keep well clear.
    Their collision record is not a great one.

  • conwaycaptain

    As long as they are built in the US/UK Don’t let the Aussies anywhere near them. The Collins are a heap of shit . The Air Defence Destroyers they are building already have problems. I hope that when the ANZACS are replaced and maybe with the new UK frigates they get them built in the UK with maybe finish off in NZ.

    • Christopher Penk

      Having spent a couple of years on the Collins class boats, I can assure you that they are decidedly not “a heap of shit”. And if you don’t believe me, ask the USN.

  • conwaycaptain

    The three most useless things on a ship:
    An umbrella
    A step ladder
    A Naval Officer
    Unfortunately the Navies of the world got rid of the Seaman Specialist who were great ship handlers etc Now we have University Grads who couldn’t handle a piss up in a brewery

    • dumbshit

      naval equivalent of “wine,women and song”—-“rum, bum and gramaphone records

  • Gulag

    US propaganda. Don’t buy them Australia. Stick to diesels.