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The Forum > Article Comments > Could Australia's future submarines be nuclear-powered? > Comments

Could Australia's future submarines be nuclear-powered? : Comments

By Stefaan Simons, published 15/8/2013

Concerns over the ability of the Collins class submarines to meet Australia's defence requirements lead to the conclusion that nuclear-powered submarines should continue to be explored as an option for Australia.

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I'm not sure that submarines are needed in the 21st century. The navy seems to have its hands full with boat people or perhaps pirates not Cold War scenarios. Having said that I wonder if the Collins sailors are in more danger from the unreliability of the vessels themselves than from the enemy in a war situation.

I understand that after the air warfare destroyers are built the ASC will be looking for a project to work on and retain its skills base. I think they should get involved in land based installation of US made prefabricated small modular reactors. These will probably be light water pressurised reactors while submarine reactors normally use molten lead in the primary heat exchanger. That would keep the ASC busy til 2030 and beyond. Then see if we still need nuclear subs.
Posted by Taswegian, Thursday, 15 August 2013 8:08:49 AM
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I'm sure that its technically possible for Australia to run nuclear submarines, but its politically impossible. Full stop.

The real problem with our present submarine program is that the government insists on buying votes in South Australia by having them built there. Much cheaper to buy off the shelf, tested designs and have them largely built elsewhere..

I'm not against nuclear subs as such, but I certainly would be against them if they were built in SA. It was bad enough with the Collins Class.
Posted by Curmudgeon, Thursday, 15 August 2013 10:26:10 AM
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Diesel powered subs and nuclear powered subs are in a different league.

Nukes are more expensive, but cheaper to run, and have a far greater range and abilities. Diesel are useful for short range and defensive applications.

I would recommend both.
Posted by Shadow Minister, Thursday, 15 August 2013 10:31:15 AM
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Dear Stefaan,

A powerful article that should get the grey matter going.

It seems that from a strategic perspective Iím not sure we have any choice but to go to very modern nuclear powered subs.

The USA, India, China and Russia I think operate nuclear patrol subs in our region. But it does seem a bit silly to invest in AWDís if we have no hope of defending them?

Indonesia outnumbers our military but they have to get here by sea, likewise any other potential aggressor, they canít get here by air so Aircraft Carriers would be major players. Our only hope would be to have long range, long patrol, high tech subs. There is only one option, Nuclear Powered Subs.

As you know we had a go at building the Anzac Class ships, you may also know that they never had Aegis capability so could never be effectively integrated with allied fleets. We used to unkindly refer to the Anzacs as ďpicket boatsĒ. The main defense was a telephone box on the top deck. This is so they can call Canberra with just enough time to say ďinboundĒ.

So no, we donít have the capability to build these, we have 60 years to catch up, so we should just buy them. If we donít we should just turn our Navy into border protection vessels and rely on the Yanks to defend us. Well, thatís pretty much where we are now anyway.

The new subs never need surface other than for victuals, they donít have periscopes so donít even need to come up to PD.

So can we order six of your Astute Class submarines please, delivery ASAP. Thanks
Posted by spindoc, Thursday, 15 August 2013 11:47:43 AM
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We sure do need nuclear subs, & surface vessels for that matter, but nuclear armed, not powered. Nuclear powered would be better than mostly not powered as we have at the moment, but not that critical.

The only way a small, rather tin pot country like Oz could defend itself against any even medium aggressor is with nuclear arms. With the few bits of equipment we have, even with the far above average men we have to man it, we have no chance.

Attrition would have us defenseless in probably hours, or at best days in a real event. About the only useful defense we could afford would be a ring of nuclear armed cruise missiles, & the capacity to move them to any area of attack very quickly.

Such a defense would make it far too costly for anyone smaller than China or the US to try to land an attack force here.

Fortunately we don't have to worry much about them. We have invited the US to do whatever they need to do here, with our help. That is actually a good idea, to ensure their help if some minor power wanted to attack us.

China is also no problem, as it is obvious they have decided to buy us out, rather than attack us.

Of course the greens & other ratbags would rather die than see us able to defend ourselves. Hell they don't even want us to defend ourselves against the ongoing invasion of boat people. It really would be good spectator sport watching parliament, if a government introduced a bill to but nuclear armed anything.
Posted by Hasbeen, Thursday, 15 August 2013 1:13:42 PM
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Why get rid of Collins subs when as conventional subs they are the only ships that regularly sink US aircraft carriers in war games? Nuclear powered subs can't do that, tooo noisy, unless you use a nuclear armed weapon system but that requires thinking about the children et al.....
Posted by dkit, Thursday, 15 August 2013 1:32:41 PM
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