Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s nuclear lobby keen to have new submarines transformed to NUCLEAR submarines

Did you wonder why the Australian government chose to buy the much more expensive French submarines, rather than the cheaper and probably more suitable German ones?

Well, what’s $50 billion from the public purse matter, if your government, kow-towing as always, to ANSTO  and the nuclear lobby, can arrange to buy submarines that are designed as nuclear submarines, but have them “not nuclear” at the start, and then later transforfm them back to nuclear.

Not too late to fit nuclear power into Australian submarines, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/not-too-late-to-fit-nuclear-power-into-australian-submarines/news-story/00cb486799368120ae592e737701beb9 THE AUSTRALIAN, Malcolm Davis, 15 May 17,  Is it time to begin a discussion on nuclear-powered submarines (known as SSNs) for the Royal Australian Navy?

The government’s 2016 defence white paper confirmed the acquisition of 12 ‘‘regionally superior’’ future submarines on a “rolling acquisition’’ process and notes that ‘‘ … Australia will need to be planning the follow-on submarine well before the last new submarine enters service’’.

It also notes that “ … as part of the rolling acquisition program, a review based on strategic circumstances at the time, and developments in submarine technology, will be conducted in the late 2020s to consider whether the configuration of the submarines remains suitable or whether consideration of other specifications should commence’’.

Certainly there should be consideration of new technologies such as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), new sensors, and new weapons for the French DCNS Shortfin Barracuda submarine chosen by Australia as part of this review, but the question of an Australian SSN capability also needs to be thoroughly debated and evaluated.Is it time to begin a discussion on nuclear-powered submarines (known as SSNs) for the Royal Australian Navy?

The government’s 2016 defence white paper confirmed the acquisition of 12 ‘‘regionally superior’’ future submarines on a “rolling acquisition’’ process and notes that ‘‘ … Australia will need to be planning the follow-on submarine well before the last new submarine enters service’’.

It also notes that “ … as part of the rolling acquisition program, a review based on strategic circumstances at the time, and developments in submarine technology, will be conducted in the late 2020s to consider whether the configuration of the submarines remains suitable or whether consideration of other specifications should commence’’.

Certainly there should be consideration of new technologies such as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), new sensors, and new weapons for the French DCNS Shortfin Barracuda submarine chosen by Australia as part of this review, but the question of an Australian SSN capability also needs to be thoroughly debated and evaluated.

The key operational advantage offered by SSNs for Australia is long range and endurance, as well as tactical advantage in speed, manoeuvrability, power and stealth. Australia’s submarine mission is focused on long-distance deployments rather than short-range coastal defence and SSNs offer this much more effectively than conventional boats.

However at the time of the competitive evaluation process for the new submarines, Australia was not prepared in political, military-technological or industrial terms to consider SSNs as a viable option.

Looking further into the future we have the opportunity to begin a debate on what it would take to at least seriously consider a transition to them from the Shortfin Barracuda, noting that boat is based on the French Barracuda SSN. It’s not just the politics of nuclear energy that we have to begin to debate. Civil nuclear power is separate from naval nuclear reactors though we also have to deal with nuclear safety issues in both cases.

For SSNs, the technology of naval nuclear reactors has developed such that the reactor can be integrated during construction, operate throughout the lifetime of the boat, and then removed when the boat is decommissioned. We should not entertain any illusion that nuclear reactors on future RAN SSNs would be operated at anything less than the highest safety standards.

But that demands a cadre of skilled nuclear experts within navy and a substantial logistics base to maintain sovereign operation. This is a critical capability area that Australia lacks.

Malcolm Davis is a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

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May 31, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war

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