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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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.