Indonesia warns of perils of nuclear-powered submarines in submission to the UN

“The exclusion of the production, use, and disposition of Highly-Enriched Uranium (HEU) for nuclear naval propulsion from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards could be exploited to provide a shield for diversion of that material to [a] nuclear weapons program,” it said.

Additionally, Jakarta pointed to safety issues involved with the transportation of nuclear material to non-nuclear weapon states, as well as with its maintenance and use, warning of the “humanitarian and environmental consequences” of accidents and exposure.

AUKUS was on the agenda when Foreign Minister Penny Wong met Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah in Kuala Lumpur a month ago.Credit:Farhan Iqbal

Contacted on Thursday, Achsanul Habib, the director for international security and disarmament at Indonesia’s foreign affairs ministry, said Indonesia’s UN working paper was “in no way intended to respond to AUKUS”.

“The Indonesian [working paper] was submitted to fill in the gap in the NPT regulation related to nuclear naval propulsion which is still lacking in regulations,” he said.

In a statement, he added: “Concerns over potential dangers that can befall the countries traversed during the process of transporting and maintaining the nuclear naval propulsion materials need to get the attention and the protection under the NPT regime”.

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Under the AUKUS agreement, the US and the United Kingdom will share technology with Australia in order for it to replace its ageing diesel-powered submarines with a nuclear-propelled fleet by the 2030s.

Australia, through a change of government, has maintained that regional neighbours have nothing to fear from its submarine plans.

“We are not a nuclear power,” Foreign Minister Penny Wong told a press conference in Malaysia in late June.

“We are not concerned that Australia might extract HEU from the submarine fuel to make nuclear weapons,” they said. “Our concern is that providing Australia with HEU-fuelled naval reactors could allow other states to invoke the AUKUS example to justify their own production or acquisition of HEU fuel.”

The four authors – who included University of Texas professor Alan Kuperman, the founding coordinator of the Austin-based Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project, Princeton University professor and former US assistant director for national security Frank von Hippel and the US-headquartered Arms Control Association executive director Daryl Kimball – called on the US and UK to commit to developing naval reactors fuelled by low enriched uranium that can’t be used for nuclear weapons.

Kuperman released the two-page Indonesia working paper alongside their letter to Biden.

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