Media Release: Nuclear Submarine Plan

Sep 16, 2021 | News


Nuclear by stealth? Concerns grow over nuclear submarine plan

President Joe Biden has today announced a partnership with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to expand military capabilities and collaboration in the Asia Pacific region. A key part of the deal is Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines for the first time.

ICAN Australia views this proposal with alarm due to the increased nuclearisation of Australia’s military capability.

The submarines would be conventionally-armed, but powered by nuclear reactors and purchased from the US.

“Important questions remain over construction of the submarines and the potential imposition of military nuclear reactors on Adelaide or other cities, making construction sites and host ports certain nuclear targets,” said Gem Romuld, Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Australia.  

“Military nuclear reactors in Australia would present a clear nuclear weapons proliferation risk and become potential sites for nuclear accidents and radiological contamination long into the future.”

The new alliance and deal sends a message of hostility and preparations for war among nuclear-armed nations. Australia should resist becoming further embroiled with military escalation in our region.

The vast majority of Australians want Prime Minister Morrison to sign and ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. While this wouldn’t bar Australia from acquiring nuclear-powered submarines, it would require Australia to ensure its alliance relationships do not involve cooperation on the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, a critical step forward for global security.

We reject any collaboration on nuclear weapons capabilities with nuclear-armed nations, in clear violation of international law.

This proposal needs to be studied closely, with a transparent, open, evidenced based process. As the government seeks input around this proposal for nuclear powered submarines, we will be seeking a better understanding of the environmental, security, diplomatic, economic and regional implications.

We note that the PM has clearly stated that this move does not signal future consideration of nuclear weapons. But he must match this with action – Australia must sign and ratify the TPNW now – to not do so leaves the door open for a future stealthy slide towards nuclear weapons,” said Gem Romuld.

“The best way that the PM can assure Australians, the region and the world that he is serious about rejecting nuclear weapons is to pick up a pen today and sign the nuclear weapon ban treaty,” said Gem Romuld, Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Australia,” she concluded.