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SSN for Australia


Dragonstriker
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In a joint press conference this morning, AU PM Scott Morrison, UK PM Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden announced the acquisition of SSN and domestic nuclear manufacturing capability to replace our 6 SSK. This will substitute the previously programmed 12 “shortfin barracuda” SSNK (denuclearised barracuda SSN).

This is a massive change for Australia.

 

ADBR story

ADM story

ABC news story

 

So far the reports are all saying the same thing.

 

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The real question is how will Australia will acquire the whole nuclear infrastructure and skilled personal necessary to support SSNs.

Building a nuclear program from the ground up takes literally decades, even with assistance.

Australia does have some experience (2 research reactors and mining operations) but not much.

 

I suppose that the US could directly sell them SSNs ready to be used, and do the most complicated maintenance operations on the west coast (at least until infrastructures are ready in Australia).

Problem is that it would be a massive violation of the treaty of non proliferation, creating a precedent for China and Russia to hand over military nuclear technology to whoever they want.

An argument could be made that Russia already used a loophole by "leasing" several SSNs to India, but technically India did not sign the TNP unlike both the US and Australia.

 

I am certainly not an expert on international law but if thing go this way, it will likely open a stinky can of worms from both a legal and geopolitical point of view (even if they manage to do some weird flex to justify it legally).

 

That being said if the Australian navy manage to have operational SSNs within the next few decades, it will definitively help against China.

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6 hours ago, Alzoc said:

The real question is how will Australia will acquire the whole nuclear infrastructure and skilled personal necessary to support SSNs.

Building a nuclear program from the ground up takes literally decades, even with assistance.

Australia does have some experience (2 research reactors and mining operations) but not much.

 

I suppose that the US could directly sell them SSNs ready to be used, and do the most complicated maintenance operations on the west coast (at least until infrastructures are ready in Australia).

Problem is that it would be a massive violation of the treaty of non proliferation, creating a precedent for China and Russia to hand over military nuclear technology to whoever they want.

An argument could be made that Russia already used a loophole by "leasing" several SSNs to India, but technically India did not sign the TNP unlike both the US and Australia.

 

I am certainly not an expert on international law but if thing go this way, it will likely open a stinky can of worms from both a legal and geopolitical point of view (even if they manage to do some weird flex to justify it legally).

 

That being said if the Australian navy manage to have operational SSNs within the next few decades, it will definitively help against China.

Picture the stupidest, most counter-productive way that this could play out and bet on that.

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It appears that fuel - defuel operations won’t be required during the service life of the submarines which suggests that there will not be the same degree of nuclear industry and manufacturing required to support the operation of the fleet as in the past.

Astute seems to be likely, based on similar dimensions to Attack, as the dry dock facilities at ASC CUF will fit Astute length boats.

Nuclear powerplants are consistent with Australian NPT obligations as we already operate OPAL.

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According to this guy it doesn't in itself constitute a violation of the NPT :

 

The loophole was left voluntarily, but exploiting it is another matter.

Regardless, discussions have started with the IAEA regarding on how they will proceed :

 

1 hour ago, Dragonstriker said:

It appears that fuel - defuel operations won’t be required during the service life of the submarines which suggests that there will not be the same degree of nuclear industry and manufacturing required to support the operation of the fleet as in the past.

 

If that's the case that mean HEU fuel (which could have been expected given that both the UK and the US use it exclusively), meaning there is a major risk of proliferation.

Even if the IAEA authorize it still create a precedent opening a gaping hole in the NPT.

 

The other problem pointed out by some people on various news articles is that the both the US and the UK are using legacy American HEU and the stockpiles are limited to a few decades already.

Adding a third country will only aggravate the situation.

Unless the US restart it's research to switch to LEU, they will have to start enrich uranium at high level again in the upcoming years (which once more won't go over well internationally).

 

There is a reason why when Brazil wanted to develop SSNs with the help of France, we provided help only with the hull and in the integration department.

All the nuclear technology used was of Brazilian origin and there was no transfer of technology regarding nuclear propulsion (and even then it was a bit dicey).

 

1 hour ago, Dragonstriker said:

Astute seems to be likely, based on similar dimensions to Attack, as the dry dock facilities at ASC CUF will fit Astute length boats.

 

It makes sense from a logical point of view, but the UK is taking a huge political risk and I'm not quite sure the money they will get out of the contract will outweigh the costs.

While the US can afford to flaunt international treaties from time to time, the same cannot be said for the UK.

 

1 hour ago, Dragonstriker said:

Nuclear powerplants are consistent with Australian NPT obligations as we already operate OPAL.

 

Civilian use of nuclear energy is not prohibited by the NPT and is even encouraged as long as you can prove to the IAEA that you don't enrich fissile materials at high levels.

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Indeed the US has been hard at it trying to prevent any nuclear proliferation , and anyone with anything nuclear basically build their own . Note that French were offering Australia a denuclearized sub because no one ever considered sale of nuclear sub.

 

Russia in the past leased a nuclear sub to India for 3 years but there was considerable pressure not to renew the lease.

 

This deal is kinda opening shot for export of nuclear subs 

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Well that might explain the involvement of London

 

If the subs intended for Australia are based on the Astute class, the design being from the early 2000s many advancements have probably been made since then.

So the Australian contract will probably used to pay for the development of some technology blocks for the Astute's successor.

That mean however that the Australian are the one who will have to deal with the kinks of the program.

Even a first delivery by the 2040s looks optimistic now.

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On 9/17/2021 at 8:41 AM, Alzoc said:

If that's the case that mean HEU fuel (which could have been expected given that both the UK and the US use it exclusively), meaning there is a major risk of proliferation.

Even if the IAEA authorize it still create a precedent opening a gaping hole in the NPT.



I don't see how this is a problem.  What's the risk; that the Australians carve out the core of their own submarine to make a bomb?

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The claimed risk has always been that of a slippery slope plus reduced oversight.

"If we export HEU reactors to our allies, what's to prevent the other side doing the same, and what's to prevent exporting of fresh fuel rods which may or may not be used for their intended purpose?".

With current gen "life of ship" cores which do not need refuelling the question of spare fuel assemblies is no longer relevant, of course.

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Worth understanding the basis of the US-UK nuclear technology sharing agreement from 1958:

 

1958 Mutual Agreement

 

This more or less requires UK participation in any agreement by the US with a third party if it concerns nuclear submarine propulsion. 
 

O5tIVqA.png

 

Personally, I don’t see Astute or an Astute derivative in Australian service. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRlt1vbnXhQ

 

Watch the part with John Mearsheimer.  The AUKUS sub deal is about so much more than subs.  Australia may also get a 1000+ mile range hypersonic missile.  

 

Mearsheimer is interesting for sure.  He predicted the USSR would not make a conventional move because they knew a breakthrough was unlikely.  After the Cold War, Soviet docs showed plans for massed nuke strikes at the outset of a war.  Mearsheimer also predicted the 1991 Gulf War would be a cake walk for the US because of Iraq's 3rd World status, lack of mobile warfare ability, air inferiority, artillery inferiority, and bad defensive dispositions.  Most others were saying it would be a bloodbath.

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