France 'could join AUKUS' in a few years says Shields
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In an exclusive conversation with Express.co.uk, an Australian defence official suggested the deal would see British-based Rolls-Royce benefit from the deal. The deal between Australia, the UK and the US will see a joint project to build up to eight nuclear submarines replacing a cancelled deal between France and Australia to build conventional vessels.
When asked whether the deal would see Rolls-Royce play a part in the construction, Senior Trade and Investment Director of Defence and Aerospace at Investment NSW Anthony Heath said: “It is highly likely they will due to the connection with current hunter-class vessels.”
However, Mr Heath stressed the “procurement process is still underway.”
Should the move occur, the contract would become a major victory for British industry, and send a clear signal to the world that Brexit Britain remains firmly on the scene.
Currently, Rolls-Royce engines power the UK’s underwater defences.
The company is responsible for delivering the Nuclear Steam Raising Plants (NSRP), plus parts of the secondary propulsion systems to the UK Ministry of Defence.
Aside from the production of the engines, Rolls-Royce continues to manage such assets across the life cycle of the equipment.
This includes providing frontline support across the world for Royal Navy submarine reactor plant equipment from the main Operations Centre in Derby.
Rolls-Royce also supports the submarines when in the Barrow-in-Furness shipyard and the naval bases at Devonport and Faslane.
According to Rolls-Royce, nuclear-powered engines in British submarines have travelled over 18 million miles, using no more than a “small spoonful” of Uranium to power the plants.
Another major incentive for the AUKUS deal turning to Rolls Royce engines is the prospect of enjoying more than 20 years’ service from a single nuclear reactor core.
The company says the AUKUS security agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the US paves the way for Australia to embrace small modular nuclear reactors aside from nuclear-powered submarine engines.
Rolls-Royce has already raised over £500million ($915million) in government and private equity funding to build its small modular reactor design.
The unique design means the Rolls Royce power plants design has no such competition from any other producer in the world.
Rolls-Royce believes it could begin building its first reactor in 2030 if it is given regulatory approval.
A small modular reactor is roughly the size of two football pitches and about one-tenth the size of Britain’s existing nuclear plants.
Rolls-Royce claims it would produce the same amount of power generated by 150 onshore wind turbines, enough to supply one million homes.
Speaking of the opportunity to expand ties between the company on the back of the AUKUS deal, a spokesman for Rolls-Royce, Tom Samson told the Sydney Morning Herald: “With AUKUS, Australia has now got a new opportunity in front of it.
“If you are going to embrace nuclear as part of your defence programme, then you would be the only country that had done so and did not then fully exploit a commercial, civil nuclear programme.
“So you have the option now.
“Whether the public and the perceptions in Australia would open up to nuclear as their part of their net-zero ambitions, I don’t know.”
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The signing of the AUKUS deal between the trio caused a diplomatic stir when France learned the project had replaced a signed and sealed deal to build conventional submarines for Australia.
Describing the situation in the aftermath of the AUKUS deal being announced, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the move was a “stab in the back.”
President Emmanuel Macron also reacted by recalling his Ambassador to Canberra for consultations, a rare but strong signal of discontent in diplomatic circles.
Mr Macron has since attempted to rekindle ties with Australia since the victory of Anthony Albanese.
Following his victory, Mr Albanese said: “President Macron and I will develop a strong relationship. I’m confident of that.
“I also congratulated him for when he was re-elected and I think that decision by the French people is a good thing.”
Speaking of British – Australian ties, Mr Heath from Invest NSW ended: “The Australian UK defence partnership has always been extremely close and AUKUS has simply sought to formalise some of the more technical aspects of that agreement, particularly as it pertains to cyber and AI.
“This close partnership has been further reinforced by recent UK Government statements in relation to pursuing its Global Britain agenda and interest in looking east of Suez once again.
“UK and Australian interest is therefore inevitably going to become more closely aligned.”
Speaking of an upcoming trade exhibition at Farnborough Air Show, Mr Heath added: “With Farnborough, there are exciting opportunities for partnering with space in particular.
“For the first time space companies from New South Wales will be participating on the Team Defence Australia stand at Farnborough.
“These companies are innovative and disruptive and very interested in identifying opportunities to collaborate with UK space companies.
“Some of the individual companies attending Farnborough from New South Wales include Advanced Navigation, Space Machines, HEO Robotics, Blueprint Lab who are all looking for opportunities to collaborate with the UK, reinforcing the aims and objectives of the UK Australia Space Bridge.”
A spokesperson for Rolls Royce said: “We are currently supporting the UK Government in the initial scoping phase for this new endeavour.
“Rolls-Royce has been the sole provider of the nuclear power plant for the Royal Navy’s submarine Fleet for over 60 years and we are currently involved in manufacturing the nuclear plant for the new Dreadnought Class submarines and in early engineering activity for a potential future attack submarine power plant.
“We are proud of the unique role we play in support of the UK’s national security.”
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