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Parliament Takes First Steps to Nuclear Submarines

The first step to Australia acquiring nuclear-powered submarines as part of the AUKUS security pact has been introduced to federal parliament.

Laws brought in to the House of Representatives on Wednesday will update rules banning civil nuclear power to allow for work to be done on the submarines.

The laws will allow for nuclear industry regulators to carry out out oversights that may be necessary as part of the submarine program.

Australia will get eight nuclear-propelled submarines as part of the AUKUS security pact with the US and UK during the next three decades, but the vessels will not contain nuclear weapons.

Defence Minister Richard Marles said the bill would be the first of many associated with the vessels, but a civil nuclear energy industry would not be on the cards.

“(The bill) does not abolish the moratorium on civil nuclear power in Australia, a feature of Australian law since the Howard government,” he told parliament.

“Building the legal architecture to support this endeavour will involve multiple tranches of legislation. This work will extend beyond the life of this parliament and likely beyond the tenure of any government.”

The minister said the submarines would be the biggest step forward for Australian military capabilities since World War II.

“It will see Australia become one of only seven nations to operate nuclear-powered submarines. It will strengthen our capacity to defend Australia and its national interests,” he said.

“Acquiring conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarines will unquestionably strengthen our defence capabilities.”

Billions were set aside to help deliver the nuclear submarines in Tuesday’s federal budget.

The government will spend $4.5b over the next decade, including $4.2b to set up the Australian Submarine Agency, a new body that will sit inside the defence portfolio.

An independent monitor and adviser will also be funded as part of the body, with $15.3m set aside for the role.

More than $87m will be spent on developing standards and safeguard arrangements for the nuclear submarines, including waste management and nuclear non-proliferation.

Source: Shepp News