New agency, new regulator created for Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine program

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The Australian government is launching a new agency and new regulatory body that will manage Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine program. 

The Australian Submarine Agency (ASA) will be established as part of the Albanese government’s commitment to delivering Australia’s conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines. 

According to a media release issued by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles, the ASA will be responsible for cradle-to-grave management of nuclear-powered submarines, including acquisition, delivery, construction, technical governance, sustainment, and disposal. 

The agency will also greenlight the necessary policy, legal, non-proliferation, workforce, security, and safety arrangements. 

With the establishment of the new agency, Marles said the Royal Australian Navy will continue to train submariners and operate Australia’s submarines. 

The Nuclear-Powered Submarine Taskforce, which is currently operating under the Department of Defence, will transition to the ASA, effective 1 July. The task force will be led by a director general, who will be announced by the government at the appropriate time. 

The government is also establishing the new Australian Nuclear-Powered Submarine Safety Regulator, which will work with existing regulators in the country to support the safety of Australia’s submariners, the Australian international communities, and the environment. 

Both ASA and the regulator will be non-corporate Commonwealth entities within the Defence portfolio and report directly to the Minister for Defence. 

“The establishment of the Australian Submarine Agency and the Australian Nuclear-Powered Submarine Safety Regulator are critical elements of delivering this game-changing capability and will ensure the safe and successful implementation of the pathway for Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines,” Marles said. 

“The ASA will be responsible and accountable for delivering the ambitious program to acquire Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines,” the deputy prime minister added. 

“A specialised and dedicated regulator – which will be independent of Defence and the Australian Defence Force – will ensure we have the highest standards of nuclear safety and radiological protection across the lifecycle of Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines.”