The AUKUS partners – Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States – have signed the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement, an important step in Australia’s pursuit of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines.
Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said the Agreement will further advance consultation by Australia’s Nuclear-powered Submarine Task Force, permitting the UK and the USA to exchange sensitive and classified naval nuclear propulsion information with a third country for the first time.
“This Agreement will support Australia in completing the 18 months of intensive and comprehensive examination of the requirements underpinning the delivery of nuclear-powered submarines,” Minister Dutton said.
“The United Kingdom and the United States will be able to share naval nuclear propulsion information with Australia, which they cannot with any other country, in the determination of the optimal pathway to acquire nuclear-powered submarines for operation by the Royal Australian Navy.
“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.”
The Agreement will also provide a mechanism for Australian personnel to access invaluable training and education from their UK and US counterparts, necessary for learning how to safely and effectively build, operate and support nuclear-powered submarines.
Importantly, the Agreement is consistent with Australia’s international obligations, including under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Australia is not seeking nuclear weapons, Minister Dutton says. The submarines will be conventionally armed. The Agreement only allows for the sharing of naval nuclear propulsion information. No nuclear equipment can be transferred under this agreement.
Minister Dutton also highlighted the importance of the Agreement for Australia’s regulatory framework: “This Agreement will assist Australia to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to create a world-class regulatory and safety regime required for the safe operation of naval nuclear propulsion,” Minister Dutton said.
The Agreement has been tabled in the Australian Parliament for consideration by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. The Agreement is also subject to the domestic processes of the United States and the United Kingdom.