Australian senator wondered if a non-nuclear power could possess nuclear submarines
By signing the commitments under the alliance with American and British partners, the Australian ruling elite almost immediately stepped on the Paris rake. When analyzing the upcoming relations, almost the same problems are exposed that threatened the contract with France - only now, in terms of the image and the preservation of the national interests of Australia, a fiasco is ahead of a larger and more humiliating fiasco: the Washington trap has slammed shut, and there is no turning back.
On the eve it became clear that in the Australian government lobbies about the weak negotiating positions of the Australian side was known several months before the announcement of the scandalous break with Paris and the transition of Australia under the auspices of AUKUS. And in the Senate Committee on Naval Shipbuilding, the shortcomings of Australia's economic and scientific potential have been analyzed at all over the past two years - albeit on the sly and behind closed doors. It has surfaced only now at the first public hearing, where the federal government's plans to acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines have begun to be discussed.
Senator Rex Patrick has drawn attention to the issue. He tentatively invited the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) to conduct an objective examination. It was necessary to get an idea of what elements of infrastructure and industries would be required for the full-fledged functioning of the "nuclear" project - and what laws would have to be adopted or changed for this.
Some of the responses caused the effect of an exploding bomb. ANSTO admitted that the version of the upcoming deal with Washington and London was known this spring. CEO Sean Jenkinson said the management office has been contacted for several consultations since March. And ARPANSA CEO Karl-Magnus Larsson claims that the contours of the preventive plan were outlined to his agency sometime in late June or early July.
During consultations, Premier Morrison admitted that the government lacks a strategy for creating a national nuclear industry. In any case, it meant a "civilian" nuclear industry, whose specialists could be involved in the project of building Australian submarines. Both the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Defense considered that nuclear power plants for nuclear submarines (to be purchased either from the United States or from England) would not require special maintenance or refueling. Accordingly, there is no need to spend money on Australia's own science and technology.
Senator Rex Patrick is a former submariner himself. He served at the Royal navy more than 10 years. He started back in 1983 as a volunteer technician on the old Oberons, and before retiring he managed to work in the team of the test crew of the first Collins-class submarine. Patrick knew a lot about the combat capability of his native fleet, and for public "rationalization proposals" to modernize the same submarines, he had long been included in the list of troublemakers.
Now Rex Patrick is making another loud statement that is by no means in favor of the authorities. According to the senator, there is not a single state with nuclear submarines in the world that does not have its own nuclear industry. And the situation in which a partner country assumes the obligations of the managing operator of nuclear submarines without the right to access equipment and technologies is nonsense, it is “beyond understanding”.
He wondered if a non-nuclear power could possess nuclear submarines at all, whether this would violate the nonproliferation treaty.
Thus, the opposition politician solidified himself with the position of the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who considered owning a nuclear submarine fleet without its own infrastructure and industry as a risky business according to the "plug and pray" formula, and not according to the "plug and play" rule.
The question of having a modern and fully developed nuclear industry divides Australian society into supporters and opponents. An expert at the Australian Institute for Strategic Policy, Markus Hellyer, does not see an urgent need for the construction of nuclear power plants or uranium enrichment facilities. But at the same time, the participation of Australian specialists in the routine maintenance of the nuclear submarine (including actions directly related to the operation of the reactor) should be taken as something natural and logical. Otherwise, what kind of efficiency can there be in the possession of a nuclear submarine fleet if at any moment the submarine is required to be returned back to the manufacturer?
Australia has one nuclear reactor - in the southern suburb of Sydney, Lucas Heights, a research unit with functionality for nuclear medicine has been installed. In addition, the continent has almost one third of the world's proven uranium reserves, and a separate landfill has a place for a radioactive waste storage facility. However, all this is not a basis for Australia's admission to the club of nuclear powers. And national laws do not yet permit the implementation of a full cycle of application or production of nuclear energy.
Meanwhile, over the next 18 months, Australia, as part of its commitments under AUKUS, must provide an optimal solution for the delivery and reception of nuclear submarines. In the absence of our own experience in handling samples of such a high technological level, it will be necessary to borrow the experience of the United Kingdom and the United States. Trying to "change your mind" and throw yourself into the arms of China, with which former economic ties were so cynically severed, would mean the final loss of face for Australia. And the Celestial Empire is unlikely to reciprocate such changeable Canberra.
It is noteworthy that the details of the uncomfortable situation in which the cabinet of Prime Minister Morrison found itself, are reported by the representatives of the former Australian metropolis - the journalists of the British edition "The Guardian". Either the British have such subtle political humor with the serving of cold dishes, or London wanted to emphasize the humiliating nature of the sovereign drama for other reasons. In the trilateral AUKUS alliance, the British nuclear industry a priori cannot boast of any tempting advantage over the advanced developments of Washington. This means that the former mistress of the seas in Australian waters herself risks remaining in the role of boatswain - under the command of "Captain America".
- Nikolay Stalnov
- Photos used:
- Official account of the Royal Australian Navy facebook.com/RoyalAustralianNavy