The AUKUS partnership is a lot more than nuclear powered submarines to be delivered a few decades into the future.
A White House briefing shows how the technology cooperation behind the plan will be deeply embedded into Australian science, education and manufacturing.
There’s the AUKUS Quantum Arrangement (AQuA) to work on next generation quantum capabilities – all three nations have strong quantum sectors, including Australia’s coherent quantum simulator and a burgeoning silicon-based quantum industry.
There’s the AUKUS Undersea Robotics Autonomous Systems (AURAS) project, to allow all three nations to collaborate on autonomous underwater vehicles.
AUKUS has also highlighted AI, cyber technologies, hypersonic capabilities and electronic warfare as possible joint ventures.
This is all part of a larger information and technology sharing across the three countries including defence-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains.
This has led to Australia’s universities starting to prepare for the increased needs of students in an AUKUS world – particularly in relation to nuclear physics.
However, as agreed at the start of the partnership, this information sharing does not extend to nuclear weapons.
“The Agreement relates only to the sharing of information related to naval nuclear propulsion,” says a Defence fact sheet about the submarines.
“Australia is not seeking nuclear weapons and the Agreement does not allow for the sharing of any information related to nuclear weapons.”
Penny Wong has recently written an opinion piece for The Guardian strengthening the government’s position.
“Australia’s proposed nuclear-powered submarines will not carry nuclear weapons,” she writes.
“Naval nuclear propulsion is not prohibited – but is in fact contemplated – by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.”