Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America recently held meetings of the AUKUS Joint Steering Groups, which were established as part of the governance structure of the AUKUS partnership in September 2021. The delegations discussed the intensive work underway and the progress that has been made since the announcement of AUKUS. Both meetings were held at the Pentagon, with additional sessions at the White House where the delegations met with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

The Joint Steering Group for Australia’s Nuclear-Powered Submarine Program met on July 25-28, continuing its progress on defining the optimal pathway to provide Australia with conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines at the earliest possible date while ensuring the highest standards of nuclear stewardship, including the responsible planning, operation, application and management of nuclear material, technology and facilities.

The participants took stock of ongoing progress to deliver on our leaders’ commitment to set the highest possible non-proliferation standards, including through continued close consultation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. They welcomed the publication of the working paper on Cooperation under the AUKUS partnership (PDF) for the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The paper details our proposal to provide complete power units to Australia, Australia’s commitment that it will not conduct enrichment, reprocessing or fuel fabrication in connection with its nuclear-powered submarine program, and our engagement with the IAEA to find a suitable verification approach. They noted the introductory remarks of the IAEA Director General to the June Board of Governors in which he expressed “satisfaction with the engagement and transparency shown by the three countries thus far” and noted that he plans to present a report on AUKUS to the September Board.

The Joint Steering Group for Advanced Capabilities met on July 28-29, reviewing progress across critical defence capabilities. The participants decided to bolster combined military capabilities, including by accelerating near-term capabilities in hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, as well as cyber. They also recommitted to deepening cooperation on information-sharing and other previously agreed working groups. As work progresses on these and other critical defence capabilities, we will seek opportunities to engage allies and close partners.


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  1. Given that IAEA (and just about everybody beholden to China) as well as the Anti Nuclear Group’s in Australia have raised the spectre of Nuclear Weapons and loop holes in the Non Proliferation treaty, I’m amazed that the LEU option hasn’t been at least considered. I know that both the UK and US boats use HEU but do we necessarily have to chose those options, with all the controversy surrounding the acquisition coming from so many sources as well as the winding down of the UK production line and foot dragging from the US, it seems to me it’s worth at least exploring.

    • You are absolutely correct – LEU needs to be studied in detail. The alleged downside is that they have to be refuelled every 10 years or so while HEU lasts for the life of the submarine at 30 years. But HEU reactors still need to be inspected for corrosion, cracks etc. Also the French have developed a technique for refuelling LEU reactors that only takes a couple of days – unlike the 2 years that older reactors needed.


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