Nuclear subs on way
AUSTRALIA SIGNS AUKUS PACT WITH US, UK AFTER $90B FRENCH DEAL TORPEDOED
CANBERRA: Australia’s first nuclear-powered submarines could be in the water before 2040 under a historic partnership with the United States and United Kingdom.
A $90 billion deal with French company Naval Group has been torpedoed, with Australia switching to at least eight moreexpensive boats using nuclear propulsion.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison hailed the new AUKUS pact as a ‘‘forever partnership’’ which would be the most important alliance since the 70-year-old ANZUS treaty.
Defence spending will be increased to fund the submarines and boost Australia’s long-range strike capability including Hawk and Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The nuclear submarines with unlimited range will not require reactors in Australia, with sealed modules for the vessels to be sent from the UK or US.
They do not require refuelling with the nuclear system lasting the life of the submarines, which are faster, have greater stealth and more carrying capacity than conventional boats.
An 18-month consultation period will determine workforce and training requirements, production timelines and safeguards on nuclear nonproliferation agreements.
Construction is expected to start before the end of this decade. Australia will become the first nation without nuclear weapons to acquire the submarines.
Mr Morrison said no civil nuclear capability would be needed in Australia.
‘‘This is not about acquiring nuclear weapons,’’ he told reporters in Canberra yesterday.
‘‘Australia has no interest in that. No plans for it, no policy for it, no contemplation of it. It’s not on our agenda.’’
China’s ambassador to Australia was briefed about the AUKUS pact and the Mr Morrison said there was an open invitation to the country’s President Xi Jinping for a discussion.
China’s Washington embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu said countries should shake off their ‘‘Cold War mentality’’ and ideological prejudice.
Mr Morrison confirmed Australia spent $2.4 billion on the scrapped French submarine deal for 12 Attack-class submarines.
‘‘Of course they’re disappointed,’’ he said.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said Labor would support nuclear-powered submarines if there was no domestic nuclear industry. No nuclear weapons and being compatible with the nonproliferation treaty were his other sticking points.
South Australia has secured the maintenance and upgrade — known as full-cycle docking — of Australia’s f leet of Collins-class submarines beyond 2026.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the AUKUS pact aimed to preserve peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
US President Joe Biden said it was a historic step to deepen cooperation between the nations.