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Senate Inquiry quizzes Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency on infrastructure needs for nuclear submarines.

Nuclear agencies say it’s too early to know what infrastructure is needed to support submarine program

Rex Patrick says it’s ‘beyond comprehension’ Australia could build a nuclear-powered fleet without a domestic industry to support it, Guardian, Tory Shepherd, Fri 15 Oct 2021

Nuclear agencies say it is too early to speculate what legislative and infrastructure changes need to be made to support a nuclear-submarine project.

A senate economics committee inquiry into naval shipbuilding has been running for two years, but a public hearing on Friday was the first since the federal government announced its intention to acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines.

Independent senator Rex Patrick called the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation to appear. The agencies were quizzed over what nuclear infrastructure and industry would be needed to support the project, and what laws would need to be changed – however, they took most of those questions on notice.

Ansto did confirm it was consulted in March about the plan to buy nuclear-powered submarines, about six months ahead of September’s surprise announcement.

“Initial conversations started in March and we had a number of consultations between then and the announcement,” chief executive officer Shaun Jenkinson said.

Arpansa chief executive officer Carl-Magnus Larsson said his agency was briefed on the plan at the end of June or beginning of July.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has said there are no plans to develop a civil nuclear industry to support building submarines. He and defence say the nuclear reactors – which will be procured from the United States or the United Kingdom as part of the Aukus agreement – will not need refuelling, and therefore a domestic industry is not necessary.

Ahead of the inquiry, Patrick said: “It’s just unimaginable, it’s beyond comprehension that someone could suggest we’d be operating a nuclear operator in a submarine in a hands-off manner.

“I also want to understand what safety regime they understand to be necessary for this to be carried out,” he added.

Labor senator Kim Carr said there would have to be “extensive onshore facilities” to train people in case there’s an emergency, or a malfunction.

“I’d be interested to know how this can be done without the development of the various sustainment industries.”

“We’d need to have intensive training of all personnel to understand the linkages between the reactor and all the other bits of the boat,” he said.

“You can’t just drop it in. It’s not like a battery in a mobile phone, everything’s connected to everything else.”……….

October 16, 2021 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA, politics

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