Where will Australia get nuclear fuel for its submarines?

Where will Australia get nuclear fuel for its submarines?

Many questions surround Australia’s nuclear submarine deal with the United Kingdom and the United States under the auspices of the AUKUS military network.

If one may question its purpose, it is a military network, and the network’s goal is to turn Australia into a nuclear-ready country in the Indian Ocean region. Of course, the goal is to counter China.

While the government did not specify whether the submarines will be nuclear-armed at some point, the idea of AUKUS solely for the purpose of supplying nuclear submarines to Australia is that the submarines will be nuclear-armed at some point. Right?

It remains to be seen whether this will violate Australia’s non-nuclear proliferation framework. When the time comes, everything will be properly engraved, and everything written in stone will be defaced.

And it remains to be seen whether New Zealand will feel the heat when Australia deploys its nuclear submarines in the future, as well as how the Kiwis will react.

So, in Aussie land, they are talking about the upcoming ‘floating Chernobyl’ while Australia’s decision to bring nuclear power to one of the key features of its defences means there will be the need for greater security.

But the bigger question being asked is where will the Australian military fetch the nuclear fuel from?

Sources say initially, the Americans may donate the first few batches of nuclear fuel which is not going to be sustainable in the long run nor in a situation of conflict.

According to Scoop, a New Zealand portal, the conservative Lowy Institute think tank has attempted to grapple with the implications across the Tasman. Australia has been mining and exporting uranium for a long time, but under export controls that arguably allow it to comply with the country’s non-proliferation treaty commitments. Along those lines, the new situation is more difficult to rationalise.

The institute says highly enriched uranium (HEU) naval reactors are currently employed across four navies, putting Australia in line with its trilateral partners [the US and UK], but also with Russia and India.

Most existing HEU naval nuclear reactors use weapons-grade uranium (enriched to over 90 per cent) or uranium enriched to at least 20 percent U-235. For context, a typical civilian nuclear power reactor uses about 3.5 per cent enriched uranium.

Scoop says the AUKUS deal widens the existing non-proliferation loophole, and – Australia’s avowed good intentions aside – it elevates the risk. Australia will have to cheat when it comes to acquiring and storing nuclear fuel for its subs.

That will be unprecedented because Australia has a track record of championing the IAEA’s safeguards.

Will Australia produce its nuclear fuel? This will mean having a reactor the size of Iran’s current nuclear fuel-producing plant. The Western world is against Iran producing such fuel on a large scale. Will they allow Australia to produce the fuel? We bet they will!