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Response to the 23-24 Federal budget from a nukes perspective

Friends of the Earth nuclear-free campaign response to the 23-24 Federal budget:

AUKUS nuclear submarines make Australia more vulnerable to nuclear attacks. They create an opening for a nuclear industry that has radioactive risks for all Australians and beyond, but especially First Nations communities on which  the uranium mines and high level nuclear waste dumps will be imposed. 


What the budget says about AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines:

  1. The budget estimates nuclear-powered submarine project costs of between $268bn and $368bn from now to the mid-2050s. This figure includes $9bn over the first four-year budget period – and between $50bn and $58bn over the first 10 years.
  2. The budget lists AUKUS as one of numerous “fiscal risks” the government will need to manage. Budget papers state: “The total costs associated with the program will not be known until design and production processes are settled and commercial and other arrangements are finalised between governments and delivery partners.”
  3. The Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office will get $22m in funding over two years “to support the establishment of non-proliferation and safeguard arrangements with the International Atomic Energy Agency”.
  4. There will be $5.2m for the Australian Radioactive Waste Agency “to support the development of radioactive waste management, storage and disposal arrangements”. As well as $162 million allocated over seven years to continue the Kimba radioactive waste plan.


FOE response:

  1. The $368bn figure is obscene and will necessitate drastic cuts in all other areas of spending. A responsible defence policy would allow for greater spending for the energy transition and for the cost-of-living crisis affecting millions of Australians. Moreover nuclear costs have a long history of ballooning and the $368bn figure may well prove to be far less than true costs notwithstanding the inclusion of a $122bn ‘contingency’ to allow for cost blowouts.
  2. The acknowledgement that costs associated with nuclear submarines “will not be known” for many years underscores the risk of vast additional funding requirements in addition to the $368bn figure.
  3. Additional funding for the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) will facilitate efforts to exploit a loophole in the UN’s Non-Proliferation Treaty such that Australia’s military will acquire weapons-useable submarine reactor fuel (highly-enriched uranium). Expect other countries ‒ including would-be weapons states ‒ to exploit the same loophole. ASNO has a history of irresponsible and deceitful behaviour. If the nuclear submarine project must proceed, the government should commit to the use of low-enriched uranium which is not directly weapons-useable.
  4. Funding is allocated to the Australian Radioactive Waste Agency (ARWA) to begin work on options for high-level nuclear waste disposal. No country has an operating deep underground repository for high-level nuclear waste (although such repositories are under construction in Sweden and Finland). The United States has a deep underground repository for intermediate-level waste: a chemical explosion closed the repository from 2014‒2017 due to systematic mismanagement and inadequate regulation. The Aboriginal-led Australian Nuclear Free Alliance strongly opposes planned nuclear submarines because of the inevitability that First Nations will be targeted for nuclear waste disposal sites, as has been the case for domestically-generated waste for decades. According to the budget, ARWA continues to be funded to impose this national nuclear waste dump on the land of the Barngarla Traditional Owners in SA despite their unanimous opposition ‒ an appalling breach of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People which calls on countries to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous material shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free prior and informed consent.


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