SA industry awaits nuclear subs announcement

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will unveil the “optimal pathway” for Australia’s nuclear submarines under the AUKUS partnership in San Diego, California on Monday local time, with reports that the project will create thousands of jobs in Adelaide and Australia.

US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Photo: AAP/Mick Tsikas.

US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Photo: AAP/Mick Tsikas.

There are reports that the project’s height, up to 8500 Australian jobs will be supported to build and maintain the boats.

Asked about the reported $200 billion price tag of the submarines, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek would not confirm the figure ahead of the announcement.

“It’s a very long-term project and with it will come a substantial number of jobs and huge investment and a real capability in the Australian economy,” she said.

“If we want to be an advanced manufacturing economy, these sorts of projects will really support that, so (it) is great for the defence of the nation.”

Thousands of skilled workers will be needed to support growing supply chains, shipyards, and technical bases in all three countries.

Australian Academy of Science President Professor Chennupati Jagadish has warned the country is overly dependent on an overseas-trained workforce and lacks the capacity to train new nuclear scientists.

“Building capability in nuclear science will be central to achieving the aims of the Australian government in developing a nuclear-powered submarine capability,” he said.

“Nuclear science in Australia faces a skills crisis. We are significantly behind our peer nations in national nuclear and radiation science capability.”

Speaking from India on Saturday, Mr Albanese said Adelaide and Western Australia were set to benefit from the creation of jobs and manufacturing opportunities.

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On Friday, SA Premier Peter Malinauskas steered clear of stating how many nuclear submarines would be built in Adelaide.

From initial expectations of eight locally-built nuclear subs when the AUKUS alliance was announced in 2021, there were numerous  unconfirmed reports last week that Australia would buy five off the shelf US Virginia-class boats in the short term and build up to local manufacture down the track, possibly of a UK-designed boat.

US Congressman Joe Courtney, who co-chairs Washington’s “AUKUS caucus” described the security pact as “transformational” for Australian workers.

Courtney said sovereignty fears over joint crewing were “over-hyped”, and the boats would be under “Australian control” once handed over.

He provided assurances any second-hand submarines bought by Australia would be of the “highest quality”.

“No one’s gonna be foisting off clunkers to good friends and allies,” he said.

Australia is expected to buy up to five US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines to prevent a capability gap in the next decade before acquiring a new vessel based on UK designs and US technology.

-with AAP

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