The federal government has announced plans for an Australian submarine agency and Australian nuclear-powered submarine safety regulator.
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The new agency and a new regulator are being established to help manage Australia’s acquisition of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines through the AUKUS defence partnership.
The Australian submarine agency (ASA) will be responsible and accountable for the management and oversight of Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine program, while the new independent statutory regulator oversees nuclear safety and radiological protection during the lifecycle of Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine enterprise, associated infrastructure, and facilities.
Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said the ASA and regulator will be non-corporate Commonwealth entities within the Defence portfolio and to report directly to the Minister for Defence.
“The Albanese government is delivering on its commitment to the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines, which is the single biggest investment in our defence capability in our history,” he said.
“The establishment of the Australian Submarine Agency and the Australian Nuclear-Powered Submarine Safety Regulator are critical elements of delivering this game-changing capability and will ensure the safe and successful implementation of the pathway for Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines.
“The ASA will be responsible and accountable for delivering the ambitious program to acquire Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines.”
The ASA will be responsible for cradle-to-grave management including acquisition, delivery, construction, technical governance, sustainment and disposal.
The agency will also enable the necessary policy, legal, non-proliferation, workforce, security and safety arrangements.
The Nuclear-Powered Submarine Taskforce, currently operating as part of Defence, will transition to the ASA on 1 July this year and will be headed by a yet-to-be-announced director general.
Deputy PM Marles said the new regulator will be independent of the Australian Defence Force’s chain of command, directions from the Department of Defence, and work with existing domestic regulators to support the safety of submariners, Australian and international communities, and the environment.
“A specialised and dedicated regulator, which will be independent of Defence and the Australian Defence Force, will ensure we have the highest standards of nuclear safety and radiological protection across the lifecycle of Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines,” he said.
The Royal Australian Navy, led by the Chief of Navy, will continue to be responsible for training submariners and operating Australia’s submarines.