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It already seems that there will be no nuclear powered submarines in Australia

By Peter Remta - posted Monday, 14 November 2022

Having read the rather full and glowing descriptions by Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead of the task force established to deal with all aspects of the proposed nuclear powered submarine fleet in Australia it was surprising that despite its detail he made little or no meaningful mention of the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

Apparently the only way that the IAEA will regard Australias acquisition of the fleet as not being in breach of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons treaty arrangements of the United Nations is that from the outset Australia will need to have a proper and acceptable method for full and safe disposal of the nuclear waste generated by the operations and maintenance of the submarines

This can only be  effectively and properly  achieved by an acceptable method of geological burial of the waste in accordance with the guidance codes and prescriptions of IAEA


This issue of the nuclear waste disposal has apparently been persistently raised by officials from IAEA with the Australian authorities but  has led to no other result at this stage except suggestions that the waste will be initially stored at Lucas Heights in Sydney and subsequently at the proposed facility at Kimba in South Australia by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)

However IAEI is adamant that there must be an acceptable and completely safe permanent disposal of the waste accomplished by its geological burial and that this will be far from satisfied even on a temporary basis by the mode of storage as suggested by the Australian authorities in order to get approval for the imminent porting and maintenance of any nuclear submarines locally

An important ingredient involved with the establishment of a nuclear submarine fleet locally of which there has been no public mention by the federal government is that the failure to provide a safe and acceptable method of permanent disposal of nuclear waste is tantamount to a breach of the human rights implications relating to nuclear and toxic issues which cannot be shielded or overcome by national security requirements and secrecy

The result is that this lack of permanent disposal will effectively preclude  Australia having any nuclear powered submarines even if it has two or more vessels lent to it by the United Kingdom and the United States of America  –  the prescription in this instance relating to the permanent nuclear waste disposal is absolute

As if this were not enough of a difficulty the South Australian premier relying on some illusory political promise of being able to station the submarines in his state has responded that should "any" - read "the" - nuclear waste resulting from the submarines require proper management then it will be stored at the proposed facility at Kimba

Despite the size of the submarine fleet task force of up to some 350 personnel and the numerous discussions with the UK and USA as the parties to the AUKUS treaty arrangements the requirements of the IAEA will override any of these factors and its stance will no doubt be readily supported by the numerous member states of the United Nations who have no great love for Australia and are prepared to criticise and disprove of anything being done by it with international implications


This means that the proposal for nuclear powered submarines is dead in the water - forgive the pun - before it is even started

It will be interesting which of our politicians of all stripes will with their infallible knowledge and their numerous advisers be the first to claim responsibility for this ridiculous and expensive outcome as to our national security.


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About the Author

Peter Remta was for many years a corporate lawyer before entering the corporate investment and resources industries as a director and general consultant.

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