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Australia -Labor, coalition reject nuclear submarines

“The Americans opened the door some months ago and for financial and strategic reasons we should at least examine the option.”

November 12, 2012


Both Labor and the coalition have ruled out nuclear-powered submarines as replacements for Australia’s ageing Collins subs, indicating the issue is dead in the water for now.

Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston has rejected suggestions by some of his colleagues that Australia consider the nuclear option.

“Nuclear submarines are not coalition policy and they are not on the table for us to be examining,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

Australia did not have the capacity to build and operate its own nuclear reactors and would have to rely on allies, including the United States or United Kingdom.

“We are in no position to make assumptions that we would have access to such technology,” Senator Johnston said.

However, the idea does have some support on both sides of politics.

Former Labor defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon said it was a mistake for Labor to rule it out.

There should be a discussion about every option that might deliver the capability Australia needs in a timely manner, he has said.

Former coalition defence minister Peter Reith also says nuclear subs should be considered.

“Nuclear submarines are top-quality kit so let’s find out whether we can afford them, how much they cost to run, manning issues and the like,” he told The Australian Financial Review on Monday.

“The Americans opened the door some months ago and for financial and strategic reasons we should at least examine the option.”

The debate on nuclear submarines reopened in October when the conservative think-tank, the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), released a study calling for reconsideration of the nuclear option.

Nuclear boats would be far more capable than conventionally-powered vessels, it said.

Leasing eight of the latest Virginia-class submarines from the US would also be cheaper.

Australia has six Collins boats which are expected to reach the end of their service life by 2025.

The 2009 Defence White Paper proposes they be replaced by 12 new and more advanced conventionally-powered submarines which would be made in Australia.

In the CIS study, analyst Simon Cowan said leasing up to eight Virginia class subs from the US would cost $24-27 billion, which was competitive with proposals under consideration for conventionally-powered boats.

Nuclear boats offered far greater range and endurance, a higher top speed, more weapons and better sensors, he said.

As a result, a fleet of eight could do the job the government envisaged for 12 conventional craft.

“The nuclear-powered Virginia class is an altogether better submarine than any diesel-powered Collins class replacement might be,” Mr Cowan said.

November 12, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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