Canberra chose a French design for its next-generation submarine fleet partly because it can easily be refitted for nuclear propulsion by the time the vessels enter service, an influential Australian business daily has reported.
Japan proposed a diesel-powered design based on its Soryu-class sub, which Tokyo believes is one of the quietest in the world.
But Australia wanted the option of converting some of its 12 planned attack submarines from diesel to nuclear, the Australian Financial Review reported on its website Sunday, quoting unnamed political, government and industry sources.
In general, a nuclear-powered submarine is noisier than a conventional one but can cruise underwater much longer without refueling or surfacing.
A nuclear submarine would allow Australia to reach China, the northern Pacific or the western edge of the Indian Ocean, the Australian newspaper reported.
“Cabinet ministers and defense officials have already discussed the possibility of switching from diesel engines to nuclear power part-way through the construction contract,” the website quoted unnamed sources as saying.