Australia is one step closer to securing access to highly-classified nuclear technology, with AUKUS representatives putting pen to paper to advance the deal.
Minister for Defence Peter Dutton and representatives from the United Kingdom and the United States this morning (22 November) signed the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement — a legally-binding arrangement granting Australia access to advanced nuclear technology under the AUKUS deal.
The agreement establishes a framework for the disclosure and use of information related to naval nuclear propulsion, supporting the local development of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.
Civilian and military personnel in Australia would be provided with critical training and education from US and UK counterparts, ensuring the submarines are developed safely and effectively.
The agreement also aims to develop the skills necessary to establish a best practice regulatory and safety regime, ensuring Australia complies with its international obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Minister Dutton said the exchange agreement would help inform the 18-month examination of the requirements underpinning the delivery of nuclear-powered submarines, led by the Commonwealth government's Nuclear-Powered Submarine Task Force.
The Task Force's considerations are expected to include requirements for design, construction, maintenance, infrastructure, industry capacity, nuclear safety, environmental protection, crewing and training.
The group will also advise on building timeframes, costs and supply needs.
“With access to the information this agreement delivers, coupled with the decades of naval nuclear-powered experience our UK and US partners have, Australia will also be positioned to be responsible and reliable stewards of this technology,” Minister Dutton added.
“…I thank our AUKUS partners for their commitment to bringing this pivotal agreement together quickly which assures continued progress for our nuclear-powered submarine ambitions and our collective efforts to ensure the Indo-Pacific remains stable, secure and prosperous, and free from coercion.”
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted the importance of the arrangement, which marks the first time the US and UK have agreed to share classified nuclear-propulsion technology with a third-party.
“This is a very important agreement for Australia's future security,” Prime Minister Morrison said following the signing of the exchange agreement.
“There are plenty of others who don't want to see this go ahead, I think that tells you why it's so important that we do.”
The agreement has been tabled in the Australian Parliament for consideration by the joint standing committee on treaties.
The landmark deal is also subject to approval in the US and UK.
News Editor – Defence and Security, Momentum Media
Prior to joining the defence and aerospace team in 2020, Charbel was news editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business, where he covered developments in the banking and financial services sector for three years. Charbel has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations, graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a double major in politics and journalism. Charbel has also completed internships with The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts and public relations agency Fifty Acres.