Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong says the government is committed to the “highest” nuclear non-proliferation standards when it comes to securing new nuclear submarines.
Her comments come ahead of her visit with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday.
Part of the talks between Senator Wong and Rafael Grossi will focus on Australia’s approach to acquiring the non-nuclear armed but nuclear-powered submarines.
“We are committed to the highest possible non-proliferation standard,” she said on Sunday.
Australia has been a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty for more than 50 years.
This has been put at odds with a decision under the previous Morrison government to replace Australia’s ageing diesel-powered submarine fleet with nuclear ones.
The first of these new submarines are unlikely to be online until the late-2030s to early-2040s, forcing upgrades to the outdated Collins-class fleet.
Acting Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles hoped to have the new nuclear fleet online soon but has previously floated the 2040 likelihood.
“I’ll be doing everything we can to try and get an earlier result,” he told Sky News on Sunday.
“Whenever we can get those submarines, in whatever year that is, whatever potential capability gap that opens up, we will seek to have a solution for that.”
The replacement of the Collins class fleet was a long running saga under the previous coalition government, plagued by cost and time blowouts.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is currently in France repairing ties with Paris after then-prime minister Scott Morrison ditched plans to buy French-made submarines earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Senator Wong and Mr Grossi will also discuss Australian nuclear safeguards, address North Korea and Iran’s attempts to build nuclear weapon arsenals and mull the risks posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Grossi will also visit with Australian nuclear experts at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.