Could Australia’s new submarines be nuclear powered?

The government is reportedly quietly considering having the upcoming submarine fleet powered by nuclear fuel.

According to unnamed sources cited by The Australian Financial Review, some in cabinet and the defence department have discussed the option of changing the diesel-powered submarines to nuclear during construction, should public attitudes towards nuclear change.

The story suggests a reason the winning bidder announced last week, DCNS of France, was chosen was that it was the only of the three to make nuclear submarines. DCNS will design a smaller, diesel-propelled version of its nuclear-powered Barracuda, to be built in Adelaide.

Construction on the first submarine of the 12 will not begin until the 2020s.