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Climate change, not China, is Australia’s real security danger

The definitive case against nuclear subs The Saturday Paper, Albert Palazzo -adjunct professor at UNSW Canberra. He was a former director of war studies for the Australian Army. November 12, 2022 “……………………………………………………………. Too many security officials hold to the mistaken belief that China is the most significant threat Australia faces. In fact, climate change deserves the top spot. Climate scientists, United Nations officials and military commanders themselves, including current US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, consider climate change an existential threat to survival. Any threat posed by China is much more limited. At worst, China’s challenge to the US-led world order could result in America’s withdrawal from the Western Pacific. Climate change could lead to the end of the human project and take countless other species down with us.

China represents, at most, a second-order threat, but it is China that draws the obsessive focus of much of the current generation of security thinkers. It does not make sense for Australia to invest so much in a weapon system that has no utility against the nation’s most dangerous threat, yet this is what is happening.

Advocates of nuclear-powered submarines also propose that constructing these vessels in Adelaide will help sustain a sovereign shipbuilding industry. In fact, the opposite is the likely result. Once in service these vessels will actually increase Australia’s dependence on the US and foreign contractors. This is because many of the sub’s critical components, weapons and systems will be made by foreign parties. Australian sailors might even need shadow US sailors to co-staff technical positions until Australia generates enough nuclear-savvy personnel of its own.

The government has announced it will invest between $168 billion and $183 billion in what it has called a national naval shipbuilding enterprise, with the goal of sustaining and growing a domestic shipbuilding capability and securing Australian jobs for the future. Such a capability is a noble goal, but what has been left unexplained is why it should be such a priority compared with foreign-dominated industries that are more critical to the nation’s future wellbeing.

Last summer, for example, Australian transport risked grinding to a halt as a result of the urea crisis, which led to a serious shortage of AdBlue, a vital diesel fuel additive. Without AdBlue, the nation’s fleet of long-haul trucks would have stopped moving, resulting in supermarkets running out of food, farmers not harvesting their crops and the mining industry coming to a halt. Yet there has been no talk of taxpayer-supported AdBlue production in Australia. Similarly, many medicines are imported, as are a host of important everyday items, such as baking powder and matches. Unlike shipbuilding, these industries apparently warrant no support.

If one wanted a truly sovereign defence industry, then the product that might mandate the level of support proposed for the subs is microchips. Virtually all military and civilian technology contains chips, yet Australia is happy to remain fully reliant on overseas suppliers for this most important of components. Establishing a domestic industry would require a huge subsidy, as well as additional investment in tertiary education and precursor manufacturing processes. Without these chips, however, no weapon system is truly sovereign.

So why the nuclear-powered subs, if they make so little sense? The obvious answer is to support the alliance. Instead of aiming for self-reliance, Australia has always preferred to seek the protection of a great power. But there is another reason: like a kid in a lolly shop, Australia has been given permission to buy the biggest treat on display. Nuclear-powered subs are one of America’s most closely guarded technologies. If Australia gets them, it will be a clear sign that, like Britain, we have been admitted to a very exclusive club, the inner sanctum of US security. What is missed, however, is that being in the inner sanctum generates a massive obligation – and some day that bill may fall due. https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/opinion/topic/2022/11/12/the-definitive-case-against-nuclear-subs

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November 11, 2022 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change

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