Accident on nuclear sub would leave Australia ‘unavoidably’ responsible: US report

Accident on nuclear sub would leave Australia ‘unavoidably’ responsible: US report

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Australia would “unavoidably” become responsible for stopping an accident once it sails American-made nuclear powered submarines under the AUKUS deal, a report warns.

The warning comes in a study prepared for US legislators that looks at the potential impacts of the Royal Australian Navy acquiring the submarines.

Australia will spend up to $368 billion by 2055 to build a new fleet of eight nuclear-propelled submarines in Adelaide to enter service in the 2040s under the costliest defence project in the nation’s history.

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But any accident on one of the vessels would have potentially huge ramifications, the Congressional Research Service report said.

Any mishap might “call into question for third-party observers the safety of all US Navy nuclear-powered ships”.

It would likely impact support by the American public for operating US Navy nuclear-powered submarines.

Foreign ports might also be put off from hosting the vessels, thus affecting the US Navy’s deterrent ability against potential adversaries such as China and Russia.

The document, designed as a guide for US legislators debating the AUKUS pact, also highlights how there is less chance nuclear submarines purchased by Australia would be deployed in any war over control of Taiwan.

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“Virginia-class boats are less certain to be used in a US-China conflict over Taiwan, or less certain to be used in such a conflict in the way that the United States might prefer, if they are sold to Australia rather than retained in US Navy service.”

The federal government confirmed earlier this year that Australia will take delivery of three US Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines by the early 2030s.

The report comes after a group of Republicans in the US Senate in July expressed their fears that selling nuclear-powered submarines to Australia through the AUKUS arrangement would leave their own navy short.

They demanded more funding for the US military before they said they would support the sale.

But Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles said he was confident the US Congress would pass the AUKUS deal.

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