Nuclear submarines announcement provides an opportunity for South Australia

SUBMARINE: Australia has joined the US and UK in a new trilateral security pact called AUKUS. Photo: AAP
SUBMARINE: Australia has joined the US and UK in a new trilateral security pact called AUKUS. Photo: AAP

Whyalla could play a crucial role in the federal government's plans to produce nuclear-powered submarines through a new alliance with the United Kingdom and USA.

Federal Grey MP Rowan Ramsey said South Australia was well placed to play a major role in construction, with the Whyalla Steelworks potentially being incorporated.

"We are waiting for finalisation on finance and a pathway forward for the Whyalla steelworks from Mr [Sanjeev] Gupta, but we will see how it goes," he said.

"It will be Australian steel, although maybe not much out of Whyalla, however Whyalla steel has been used in the construction of facilities.

"Given it is the best part of a decade away before we start constructing, there is a lot of room for discussion about supplies."

A GFG Alliance spokesperson said the nuclear subs deal was "an exciting opportunity for South Australia and the Australian steelmaking industry".

"GFG Alliance is looking forward to engaging with government at the appropriate time to discuss the possibility of supplying steel," they said.

The submarines will not be armed with nuclear weapons, but being nuclear-powered means they can stay quieter for longer and do not need to be refuelled.

Mr Ramsey said there had not been any discussion about whether a potential nuclear waste dump site near Kimba would be utilised to store nuclear waste from the submarines.

"These submarines are not likely to go into use until 2040 and this is a game changer as these new nuclear motors don't need refuelling for their life of service, which is 35 years, so there will be no waste inside the next 50 years," he said.

"In 50 years time there could be any amount of ways to dispose of waste.

"It is so far down the track that there is no reason to concern ourselves on that."

While in Port Lincoln on Thursday, Independent Senator Rex Patrick said it was a huge announcement that needed to be properly considered.

"I fully support the government in turning away from the French program which was hugely over budget and was running behind schedule, and there were questions as to whether it would deliver the right capabilities for Australia," he said.

"However, this news is extremely interesting - it's a complex program that has been proposed and there's got to be a lot of work done in order to be able to satisfy ourselves that we're not jumping out of the frying pan, into the fire.

"It's a very bold move by the government, noting we don't have a nuclear industry here in Australia, all of the other nuclear submarine operators have a nuclear industry upon which their navy can rely on."