Nuclear Subs Down Under

September 17th, 2021 - by People for Nuclear Disarmament and the Human Survival Project

Australian Nuclear Submarine Decision Reveals
Delusional, Magical Thinking, Not Mature Strategic Analysis

People for Nuclear Disarmament and the Human Survival Project

AUSTRAILIA (September 16, 2021) — TheMorrison Government’s decision to equip Australia with nuclear – powered submarines, far from being a tough-minded decision based on firm strategic analysis, reveals magical and even delusional thinking in which nuclear technology is a miraculous cure-all that can do anything, and in which deep thinking about Australia’s real security needs has been dispensed with. 

There are two levels of analysis that need to be applied here.

•   Does Australia even need submarines, and is money spent on submarines maybe better spent elsewhere – such as on less prestigious but maybe more useful, surface vessels? It is decidedly unclear just where subs might fit in plans to assure Australia’s security, and all submarines are hi-tech, fiddly, and costly pieces of technology. This question has clearly not even been asked let alone answered.

•   Why nuclear? There is in fact nothing ‘magic’ about nuclear powered (as distinct from nuclear – armed) submarines. They are not quieter than diesel-electric subs, and some experience has it that advanced conventional subs are in fact a lot quieter than nuclear powered ones. They cannot be serviced or built here in Australia – we will be completely dependent on (most likely US) technology. The shipyards in SA will be relegated to a secondary role in construction if at all. And things can go wrong with nuclear subs that cannot go wrong in conventional ones.

Australia has taken the ‘macho’ option as a first step in a more and more ‘macho’ relationship with the US, and the UK, and finally, this will exacerbate rather than ameliorate the undoubtedly deteriorating security situation.

The submarine decision does nothing to improve, and much to worsen, Australia’s security situation. The new military/diplomatic lineup is of the same kind, deepening confrontation and making Australia more and more into a nuclear target for governments that are not going to be at all impressed by the submarine decision.

John Hallam is a Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner with People for Nuclear Disarmament/Human Survival Project and Co-Chair of the Abolition 2000 Nuclear Risk Reduction Working Group.