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Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines in new British-American deal

Australia is on the brink of a major overhaul of its $90-billion submarine building program, as part of a new formal three-way alliance with the United States and the United Kingdom.

In a further significant move, the new submarines will be nuclear-powered.

The federal government had initially struck a deal with French company Naval Group for the mammoth program to overhaul defence’s ability to protect Australian waters and interests.

But after delays and problems with the deal, a joint announcement was made Thursday morning by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden.

They’ll commit to spending the next 18 months identifying the best way to produce nuclear-powered submarines instead.

It is unclear exactly what this means for the Naval Group deal.

The three nations also committed to a three-way partnership, called AUKUS, which will largely be focused on deeper defence and security ties.

It’s badged as a way to secure stability in the Indo-Pacific region but appears aimed at bringing countries together in a show of strength against China.

Previous Australian submarines were diesel-electric-powered, and the move to nuclear will come with a recommitment by all three nations to nuclear non-proliferation.