Two weeks ago, Australia and the US announced a deal for the funding of a fleet of new nuclear-powered attack submarines for patrolling the Indo-Pacific, all part of the new AUKUS defence pact that has caused diplomatic havoc in Europe and beyond.
The announcement reignited the age-old debate between the pro- and anti-nuclear energy lobbies in Australia.
On one reading, it’s a moot trial.
It’s currently illegal to build or operate a nuclear power reactor: the only nuclear reactor in Australia is ANSTO’s OPAL reactor, which is used purely for research purposes, to create nuclear medicine.
The debate is fraught in Australia for a range of complex reasons, not least that while some see it as a solution to the climate crisis, others see it as a recipe for environmental disaster, or simply an expensive distraction from more effective renewable-energy methods.
Many of the concerns that swirl around nuclear power – and nuclear-powered subs in particular – concern the supply chain. Where will the enriched uranium required to power the subs come from? And what will we do with the nuclear waste?