Article in the Australian 2 days ago.. from 2 at RAND (John Birkler (John Birkler - Profile
) is a senior fellow and Robert Murphy is a policy researcher, John has written a lot about Australia's ship building industry, and has a background in physics)
NoCookies | The Australian
Which is the argument going on here, can you do it with no civilian nuclear industry.
Then following in more specific details:
We would have to look at whole of life going into nuclear propulsion. Nuclear waste created in the production, and these waste after used and the subs themselves.
The legislative thing I think is over blown, there are basics of that already (but would have to be expanded). We have operated 3 research reactors, have several pilot enrichment facilities. We have had nuclear testing in Australia that was a much bigger issue, and we have dealt with things like asbestos which a huge number of people were exposed to in Australia in the mining, production, application and use of.
IMO the logical path is an enrichment facility (probably in South Australia). Maybe 2 or 3 reactors, one in South Australia which is at the end of the power grid, vulnerable has no coal, has limited pumped hydro, and is where the subs would be built. Western Australia is another location, and is a likely one where the Subs would operate from, and then one on the east coast. Possibly a small one in Darwin or Broome. Skills IMO again mostly exist in the existing power industry and chemical industry. However, it is likely Australia will close all its coal power stations in the next 10-15 years, and much of its chemical industry so these jobs and skills are in decline. It will be much harder to establish an industry once these are gone, you kind of want a warm hand over between them.
For uranium reserves, Australia is spoilt for choices.
Again South Australia makes a logical place for enrichment, as there are several large reserves and an active mine (Olympic dam, 20% of its revenue comes from uranium). It has a dry environment and was used for atmospheric weapons testing. Its geologically stable and would also make a suitable place for a waste repository. As was pushed by Pangea Corp back in the late 90's.
I then wouldn't be making 12 nuclear SSNs, I would only have <6 SSNs and >6 conventional. I would go with the french reactor design and french barracudas, but run it at higher enriched so to make it a lifetime reactor (~20 years).
I would then be looking at making an indigenous cruise missile and rocket program to carry nuclear war heads based off uranium. Fired out of regular torpedo tubes. Then have a highly enriched uranium stockpile for nuclear weapons and leave it at that level. The missiles could be deployed on regular or SSN subs, as well as aircraft, and have a range ~500-1000km.
But at this point we are probably 100 billion bucks invested into this over and above the existing investment in subs etc. 3 large ish reactors, 2 small ones, ~4 SSN reactors. The Uranium enrichment would make some money, not huge amounts. You would have to wonder if it was all worth it.
For a whole lot less you could build some kick arse conventional subs with lithium type batteries, and make an indigenous rocket/missile program and have a boutique research enrichment facility. Or just go back to buying HEU from the UK like we did with HIFAR. Or be happy with our LEU stockpile and a pilot plant that could enrich it if needed. Or force the Americans into a nuclear sharing deal like NATO has.
Again what are we trying to do with this?