September 30, 2021

AUKUS Breaks NPT's 3rd Pillar: Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy

A truism is that International Law constitutes codified politics bestowed by Great Powers.

More specifically if breaking non-proliferation conventions strengthens the Western Alliance then the NPT can be ignored. The NPT is "Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weaponscommonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty hence NPT. 

The NPT is not only about nuclear weapons. Its "Third Pillar" is about the peaceful use of nuclear energy.   

It appears that if acts promoting nuclear proliferation, on balance, favour the US/Western Alliance, then key parts of the NPT, and its spirit, can be ignored.

So running counter to the NPT's Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy is the US and UK, under AUKUS, assisting Australia to build warlike nuclear propelled submarines. 

The prospect of the US and UK exporting 93+% weapons grade HEU to be used in the reactors of Australian nuclear submarines runs even further from "peaceful use". Also see Wiki's reference and linked explanations to 93% HEU.

September 29, 2021

South Korea asked Trump for US Nuke Sub in 2017

The AUKUS agreement effectively removes the legal taboo of the US or UK exporting 93+% weapons grade nuclear reactor HEU to Australia. By this taboo removal this trends toward legitimizing nuclear submarine propulsion for South Korea. 

For years and as recently as late August 29, 2021 South Korea has been raising the idea of nuclear propelled South Korean subs. 

In November 2017 South Korea's President raised the idea with President Trump of South Korea purchasing a US nuclear propelled attack submarine (SSN)

Also see further references to nuclear propelled South Korean subs called "KSS-Ns" here. 

Some Major Japanese Politicians Talking Nuke Propelled Subs

The AUKUS agreement effectively removes the legal taboo of the US or UK exporting 93+% weapons grade nuclear reactor HEU to Australia. By this taboo removal this trends toward legitimizing nuclear submarine propulsion for Japan. 

Some senior Japanese political leaders are now talking of possible future Japanese nuclear propelled submarines quite openly.

From the late 1960s Japan completed the nuclear propelled ship Mutsu with a Japanese built miniaturized reactor. Japan has maintained a highly developed conventional sub industry and a nuclear industrial base. 

Rahul Kumar, for India's daijiworld, September 28, 2021 has written an excellent commentary on the Japanese leaders' statements

"After AUKUS, Japan debates if it too should have nuclear-powered submarines"

New Delhi, Sep 28: The AUKUS deal between the US, Australia and the UK to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines to take on China in the Indo-Pacific has caused rumblings in Japan.

Japanese politicians are debating whether Japan should also possess one. Japan goes to elections in November [2021] and the nuclear submarine for Australia, coupled with Chinese aggression in the region, has become a political issue.

Taro Kono - Japan's administrative reform minister, who is likely to lead the ruling party - Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and may become the Prime Minister after Yoshihide Suga, is in favour of acquiring the submarines. In a TV debate on Sunday, he said: "As a capability, it is very important for Japan to have nuclear submarines".

Nikkei Asia reports that former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi endorsed the idea. Talking about the positives of owning a nuclear-powered submarine, she said that Japan would be able to travel longer with such a machine. These submarines are preferred because these are quieter, have a longer range and remain underwater for long.

Not everyone within the party endorses the idea.

Fumio Kishida, former policy chief of the LDP [and on Sept 29, 2021 appointed Leader of the LDP] feels that the country's security needs are not such that it needs to go far out from Tokyo's shores. He, therefore, does not feel the need for the Japanese Self Defence Forces to acquire a nuclear-powered submarine.

The fast-track geo-political changes in the seas around Japan has given fuel to much debate within the country.

China's rise as an aggressive economic and military power is making Tokyo uncomfortable. With frequent war cries about annexing Taiwan, Beijing has given much stress to Japan which feels that China might invade Japanese islands as well. The China factor has forced a worried Japan to rethink its military strategy.

The slow but continuous process through which China has usurped a number of reefs and islands in the South China Sea has made Japan and other countries nervous.

In the last few months Japan has been regularly highlighting Chinese aggression in the region. A white paper on defence accepted Taiwan as a separate territory from China. Tokyo has gone to the extent of saying that it will join forces with Taiwan against Chinese aggression."

Pete Comment

With Fumio Kishida likely to become Japan's next Prime Minister in November 2021 Japan may not "go nuclear sub" in the short-medium term. But AUKUS' lifting of the nuke propelled sub taboo, now appears to be permitting a trend. Previously unthinkable pro-nuclear sub statements are now being made by major Japanese politicians.

September 28, 2021

Sept 24, 2021 Quad Summit's Non-Alliance Hides Much

Thanks Gessler for his 2 extended comments on the first face-to-face Quad Summit Meeting, Washington DC, September 24, 2021. The Quad's long, unofficial, title being  "Quadrilateral Security Dialogue".

Gessler has sought my "opinions and/or analysis on this overall subject of QUAD v/s China." 

I'd say the prior to meeting drafted Quad Principles affirmations and Quad Fact Sheet both dated Sept 24, 2021 seek to gain ground from China on many global/regional policy areas. 

Those Principles/areas/values most pointedly aimed at China include: 

-  "
freedom of expression and privacy".
-  "
dignity of individuals"
[against] "
authoritarian surveillance and oppression..." and
free and fair market competition"

Implicitly critical of China the "initiatives" in the Fact Sheet include:

-  ending the COVID-19 pandemic, including by increasing production and access to safe
   and effective vaccines [China invented vaccines being notoriously seen as less effective
   than Western invented vaccines.]

combatting the climate crisis [China's "developing country" flexibility re Paris
    targets remains a problem. Though India is also dubbed "developing"...]
-  China often seen as threat to Cybersecurity "
the Quad will launch new efforts to bolster
    critical-infrastructure resilience against cyber threats"

Main Pete Comments

The whole group sentiment of the Summit was to not be too counter-productively confrontational against China. The Principles and Initiatives emerging from the above Summit studiously avoided any implying Quad military alliance hard power subjects (although "Cybersecurity" comes  close).

All 4 Quad "dialoguers" (US, India, Japan and Australia) have not formed a military alliance (eg. no "Asian NATO"). However all 4, in subsets, or in total, are increasingly engaged in joint land, air and naval (eg. Malabar) exercises.

It is a reality that India's continuing friendship withe Russia and Japan's self defence policies work against any open show of a Quad alliance with the US as senior ally. Any affirmation of an alliance in a summit meeting held in Washington (hence seen as a "Washington Agreement") would run particularly counter to India's traditions. However, much goes on behind the scenes, particularly in intelligence liaison and underwater. 

Underwater in the sense that Chinese submarines proceeding to-from China to the Indian Ocean are tracked by submarines, other mobile platforms, "Quad" fixed undersea and geostationary satellite platforms. 

Unofficial "corridor" Quad meetings and secret backchannel arrangements between Quad dialoguers are increasing - even if India and Japan do not want to openly enter a Quad alliance.

September 27, 2021

Likely UK Aiding Aus Nuke Subs: Collins Till 2050s

Keeping in mind its very early days with the Aus Nuke Subs appearing far into the future - maybe well into the 2040s or 2050s.

At this early stage UK Prime Minister Johnson's September 15, 2021 official comments "hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the United Kingdom [in presumably marginal UK electorates]" appears to indicate the UK nuke sub industry will provide substantial help to Australia.

It is significant that on September 17, 2021 (2 days after UK PM Johnson's AUKUS submarine comments) the following appeared:

"In September 2021, the Ministry of Defence announced a £170 million investment into design work for the successor to the Astute-class. This funding included two £85 million contracts which were awarded to BAE Systems and Rolls Royce.[22] The new class of submarine is expected to replace the Astute-class during the 2040s.[23] "

If the UK submarine building industry (less efficient than the US) takes the main running then my best current guesses are:

Australia will eventually have 8 follow ons to the relatively slow UK Astute SSNs with a  new feature of 2 US invented Vertical Launch Systems (VLS) with an all up total of 14 Tomahawk Anti-ship/Land-attack missiles. 

Other US features (Combat System, other weapons, UK variant of a US reactor) will go into this Hybrid US-UK Aus Nuke Sub. By the time Adelaide Hybrids are "ready" they will be the most costly SSNs ever built - more expensive than the US Seawolf-class.

Collins Until the 2050s

From now until the 2050s, Australia will rely on increasingly old Collins diesel-electric subs. The 6 Collins subs will consecutively be undergoing their mid-life upgrade, in Adelaide naturally (for 2 years minimum at AU$2 Billion each (or more)) in a process known as the Life of Type Extension (LOTE).  

US Navy Says 1st Aus Nuke Sub Will Take "Decades"

The US Navy's Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Mike Gilday, who is the professional head of the US Navy, was reported on September 24, 2021 as saying:

“This [Australian nuclear submarine program] is a very long-term effort that’ll be decades, I think, before a submarine goes in the water — it could be. 

I don’t see this as a short-term timeline. 

We have an 18-month exploratory period that’ll get after a lot of these questions and help Australia come to grips with exactly what they need to do to get in the path akin to the United States Navy,” 

September 24, 2021

Aus Nuke Sub Less Likely to Use US Design

The following is my first guess-timate that an Australian future nuclear submarine will less likely to be based on a US design (like the Virginia-class SSN). 

The US Contribution - whole Virginias (less likely)

Out to 2043 the US is committed to building around 2 Virginia SSNs per year. The US is also commencing 1 of 12 Columbia class SSBNs per year (as of last year, 2020) all for the USN. On the whole the US wants to build SSNs and SSBNs for the USN as quickly as possible to keep up with Chinese and Russian builds.

The US is unlikely to allow US built Virginias to be supplied to Australia and even less likely to permit Australian built Virginias. This is for long established US commercial competition and US government security reasons. Security reasons because US SSNs are much more advanced than UK SSN or other country SSNs. The US does not want to risk, or surrender, this lead even to close "friendly ally" Australia.

US President Biden, on September 15, 2021, only vaguely indicated specific US action:

"Our governments [which includes the UK Government] will now launch an 18-month consultation period to determine every element of this program - from workforce, to training requirements, to production timelines, to safeguards and nonproliferation measures, and to nuclear stewardship and safety - to ensure full compliance with each of our nation’s commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."

This, on the face of it, vague commitment of specific US action may, in tangible terms, mean several things:

The US has been already providing its nuclear submarine Combat (Tactical Control) System (known as the AN/BYG-1) to the Collins class. "The AN/BYG-1 is installed on the U.S. Navy’s Los Angeles, Seawolf, Virginia, SSGN, SSBN and the upcoming Columbia SSBN class, as well as on the Royal Australian Navy’s Collins-class submarines." The US will almost certainly continue to provide that system for Aus future nuke subs. A combat system consists of sensors, computer hardware and software (for data fusion and targeting) and weapons (likely to remain the US Mark 48 torpedoes, US Harpoon ASMs and (new for the Aus subs) US Tomahawk ASM/Land Attack missiles. 

Australia and the US have also been cooperating on several longer range and/or hypersonic missile projects (future nuclear tipped missiles possible). 

The Tomahawks can be fired horizontally through US and UK torpedo tubes. In the Virginia Block IIIs and IVs there are also 2 vertical launch Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs) with 6 x Tomahawks in each (for a total of 12 vertically fired Tomahawks or a number of newer missiles). 

The US may be unwilling to offer its latest, highest tech, submarines to Australia. These would be:
- the much larger more expensive Virginia Block Vs (with likely provision for 28 to 36  vertically and horizontally fired Tomahawk ASM/Land Attack missiles) 
- the US SSN(X). Likely much more expensive than Block Vs and of course higher tech. If the USN Submarine Service has its way SSN(Xs) are like to be a development of the ASW specialized Seawolfs

The US would also need to provide permission for Australia to use US designed reactors (which use 90+% weapons' grade HEU) which are, in modified form, also used in UK nuclear subs.

On Monday UK Astute Mark 2s (more likely).

September 23, 2021

Build Aus Nuke Subs in Australia & HEU Double Standard

The AUKUS September 15/16, 2021 SSN future for Australia intention has thrown up a wide range of production, cost, political and legal issues. The following are 2 major areas. 

1. Build Aus Nuke Subs in Australia?

Gessler commented Sept 16, 2021:

"Things seem to be getting pretty interesting again with regard to the Australian submarine program. I'm guessing the official press releases are yet to come (as per what I've read on ABC). 

But if RAN & Australian DoD are serious about an SSN acquisition, I personally reckon it makes the most sense to purchase 4-6 submarines directly from the US/UK. Considering that both the Astute & Virginia-class production is currently running, it might be the most affordable way to acquire an SSN capability, both with regard to price & time.

Wanting to construct SSNs in Australia would again lead to a program as humongous in price & convoluted in scope as the Attack-class SSK program, if not more so. In fact, definitely more so. CONSIDERABLY more so. 

Off-the-shelf purchase of a number of SSNs of similar configuration as currently being built for USN or RN (minus any export-controlled stuff) would certainly seem to be the most straightforward way. But I understand there's lots of jobs/economical issues tied up with the local construction plan for Attack-class, I wonder what the Morrison Govt will come up with to satisfy those needs. Eagerly waiting for your thoughts (both as comments and/or in the form of an article)."

[Some thoughts on Sept 14, 2021 from Pete]

2. HEU Double Standard

KQN on Sept 16, 2021 rightly raised the issue:

"Virginia, Astute and Los Angeles class SSN all use highly enriched fissile material beyond the limits of non proliferation treaty, so how can one say one is not violating at a time when we beat up on NK and Iran for enriching fissile material? Should the laws apply to every one and not based on one party's interpretation?"

September 22, 2021

Wedging & an Aussie ALP Government Could Cancel AUKUS Sub Idea

Australia's improved strategic response to China from AUKUS, especially a future  nuclear propelled submarine aspect, are much needed virtues. 

There are also domestic political ramifications within Australia. The nuke sub intention  has occurred in the runup to Australia’s next Federal Election to be held by on, or before, May 21, 2022. "Wedging" means politically dividing in Australian parlance.


Australia’s Morrison Liberal-National Coalition Government would be fully aware that to further the sub intention, from the Australian end, the Coalition Government needs to stay in office. In the past the Australian Labor Party (ALP) opposition has been indecisive in pushing through naval building projects and opposed to anything vaguely  nuclear, let alone nuclear propulsion for submarines. 

If the ALP won the next Election this may threaten the CURRENT Australian government's nuclear submarine intentions. The creation of AUKUS has not finalized an Australian nuclear submarine program. The submarine program will be under negotiation with the US and UK until 2023, if not longer. The program may never occur. Many in the ALP also see Australia's AUKUS reliance on the US and UK as impinging on Australia's foreign policy autonomy or sovereignty

It is highly significant that the Coalition is running behind the ALP, by a wide margin, in opinion polls.


The Coalition Government, by establishing a nuke sub future under AUKUS: 
-  has been wedging the traditionally ant-nuclear ALP Left from the pro-Jobs and Economic Growth ALP Center-Right faction. 
-  is compromising the leftwing ant-nuclear principles of the ALP’s Leader, Anthony Albanese, who has always had a tenuous hold leading the ALP.  


-  is adding to Albanese’s discomfiture to the benefit of Bill Shorten, of Labor’s Center-Right faction, who still covets the job of being ALP Leader. 

-  is wedging the ALP from the strongly anti-nuclear, leftwing Greens Party, whose support is often required for the ALP to win power and govern. 

All this means is that fewer leftwing Australian voters will likely vote for the ALP in the coming Election to be held by May 2022. 

A major risk is, if the ALP wins the next Federal Election (with help from the Greens) then this may effectively cancel the (future) Australian nuclear submarine deal!

September 21, 2021

Naval Group Sales After the France-Aus Sub Deal Dumped?

Summarising the comments of some well-placed French sources:  

Naval Group needs to look to the future now that the French-Australian submarine deal is dead. But France is still hurting.  

Australia will begin to detail the failures of Naval Group to show Australia’s disengagement is legitimate. Australia and France will enter into a secret legal battle (because the Australia-France submarine contract is secret) between all the parties. But without losing face. 

It is a big disappointment for France and its naval industry. We thought that with Trump's departure France had avoided the worst from the US. Well no. The French tend to have a little too much confidence in themselves and to believe that the others will be well intentioned. 

France’s Political Environment 

The Biden administration is astonished at the strong reaction of France to the AUKUS sub deal. There is a saying in France “A promise is only binding on those who believe in it. The US is waiting for the comparatively “small country” France to calm down. But France feels alone. 

Let us not forget that France is entering the French Presidential election period and there is a record to defend. This French Presidential race part explains the severity of French reactions to the loss in Australia. President Macron wants to win a second term in 2022. 

This point about Macron's severe tone and France's Presidential Election was finally recognised by Australia's Defence Minister, Peter Dutton, on Friday, October 29, 2021 when Dutton "suggested the French president may be playing to domestic political sensibilities. “Look, don’t forget, too, that France has got an election in April of next year,”".  

Building More Nuclear Submarines for the French Navy? 

To make up for the loss of revenue from Australia, it would be desirable if the French Government asked Naval Group to build 8, instead of the projected 6, Barracuda Suffren-class SSNs for the French Navy. This would give France greater power in Asia.  
Recently, some French Parliamentarians insisted that France build 5 or 6 next generation SSBNs (called SNLE-3Gsinstead of 4, to strengthen France's nuclear weapon posture. 

Expanding the number of French submarines, would provide greater French independence but there are two problems:  
-  the French budget, and 
-  the fact that the French Government must not become the lifeline of Naval Group
    (even if the Government is the major shareholder in Naval Group). 


France’s Recent Arms Sales Performance Has Been Tough 

President Macron will try to encourage his European partners to buy French conventional submarines in a renewed pan-European push. But will the Germans (TKMS), Spaniards (Navantia) and Swedes (Saab Kockums) play the French game? Those countries are still likely to compete. 

For India, with their P-75I specifications, which require a confirmed AIP, France's chances will be complicated. France has been unable to develop an operational second generation AIP. 

Over the Netherlands’ Walrus Replacement Competition, many in France have doubts. 

It would be sad if France's submarine export market were limited to South America. 

The worst possibility for France would be that the Spain's s Navantia S-80s win markets. It would be shame. France is helping Brazil build conventional Scorpenes and the non-nuclear aspects of a Brazilian SSN


Outside of Naval Group and submarine matters France has been fooled over the plan to sell French built Dassault Rafale jets to Switzerland. US F-35A's won that sale, and France's unhappy sales record continues.