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Why does Australia need nuclear-powered submarines?

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AUKUS allies have unveiled nuclear-powered submarine plans to counter China’s growing dominance

Australia will spend more than $365 billion on a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines under the most expensive defence project ever undertaken in the nation’s history.

Eight nuclear-propelled submarines—to be manufactured in Adelaide—will be expected to enter service in the 2040s.

Australia will also become the home for three second-hand Virginia-class submarines from the United States within the next decade.

It means Australia becomes the seventh country to acquire these nuclear-powered vessels.

The deal is the first major agreement reached under the AUKUS alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom and United States—a security and defence pact announced in 2021.

The plan lifts all three nations’ submarine industrial bases and undersea capabilities by enhancing deterrence and promoting stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the deal comes amid rapidly shifting global dynamics in the region.

“This will be an Australian sovereign capability, commanded by the Royal Australian Navy and sustained by Australians in Australian shipyards, with construction to begin within this decade.”

Trilateral allies: the leaders of Australia, the United States and United Kingdom in San Diego.

Mr Albanese was standing next to U.S. President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in San Diego—the pulse of the U.S. Navy—where the trio spoke of the strength of their alliance.

“Today, as we stand at the inflection point in history, where the hard work of announcing deterrence and enhancing stability is going to reflect peace and stability for decades to come, the United States can ask for no better partners in the Indo-Pacific where so much of our shared future will be written.”

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT

The deal has largely attracted bipartisan support from lawmakers across the three continents. Australia’s Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton said the government deserves “full credit” for continuing the deal, after his Coalition lost the 2022 election.

“Regardless of the next election, if the Coalition is successful or not, AUKUS will continue and it must because the times demand it,” he said.

What are nuclear submarines?

These conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines will be modelled on a British design, and use the latest U.S. technology.

Dr John Coyne is from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, who said the deal is unprecedented.

“This is the most secretive project since World War Two, in terms of defence. The U.S. will be sharing nuclear technology, which in the past it has only shared with one other country, the UK.”

Unlike diesel-powered submarines, nuclear capability is built for endurance. The submarines boast longevity unmatched by others, which often need to resurface and refuel.

In fact, they can remain hidden at sea without detection for years. It means the length of any mission is dependent on whether the crew requires a break or supplies, or if the submarine encounters a fault.

Australia’s submarines will not be armed with nuclear weapons but they will have missile launch tubes on board.

“They’re nuclear-powered, not nuclear-armed. Australia is a proud non-nuclear weapons state and it’s committed to stay that way. These boats will not have any nuclear weapons of any kind on them,” President Biden said.

Why are they important?

The U.S. President spoke about the need for a “free and open, prosperous and secure” Indo-Pacific region.

He said the region should be “defined by opportunity for all”.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shared some examples of the challenges facing AUKUS in the region.

“In the last 18 months the challenges we face have only grown.

“Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, China’s growing assertiveness, the destabilising behaviour of Iran and North Korea all threaten to create a world defined by danger, disorder, and division,” he said.

Australia’s fleet of nuclear-powered submarines could the key to defending the nation’s sovereignty if those challenges continue to escalate.

Australia will receive nuclear-powered submarines by the 2040s.

Each of the three AUKUS allies have a slightly different rationale for their involvement. However, Charles Edel from the Center for Strategic and International Studies said it boils down to one country.

“China was not mentioned when AUKUS was first announced, although the exponential growth of Beijing’s military power and it’s more aggressive use over the past decade was the clear animating force behind it.”

China has criticised the AUKUS Alliance. On Monday, President Xi Jinping vowed to build a “great wall of steel.”

The Chinese leader was speaking against the backdrop of his precedent-breaking third term as president.

“Security is the bedrock of development, while stability is a prerequisite for prosperity.”

XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT

“The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has entered an irreversible historical process,” he said.

What are the risks?

Public debate has been stirred as Australia, Britain and the U.S. emerge from the depths of Covid-19 economic instability.

Maria Rost Rublee, is an Associate Professor at Monash University, who said the deal poses risks for Australia.

“The AUKUS nuclear submarines face significant risks that originate from our sovereign defence capability of submarines relying so heavily on foreign governments, even close allies such as the United States and the UK.

“For example, the American technology control regime will require reform if AUKUS is to proceed, which is a matter for the U.S. Congress,” she said.

Costa is a news producer at ticker NEWS. He has previously worked as a regional journalist at the Southern Highlands Express newspaper. He also has several years' experience in the fire and emergency services sector, where he has worked with researchers, policymakers and local communities. He has also worked at the Seven Network during their Olympic Games coverage and in the ABC Melbourne newsroom. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Professional), with expertise in journalism, politics and international relations. His other interests include colonial legacies in the Pacific, counter-terrorism, aviation and travel.

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Boston Dynamics’ electric marvel or robot contortionist?

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Boston Dynamics has recently unveiled its latest creation, the electric Atlas robot, boasting enhanced agility and strength.

However, with its uncanny ability to contort and rise from the ground with an almost eerie grace, one might wonder if we’re witnessing the birth of the world’s first robot contortionist.

As this technological marvel flaunts its capabilities, one can’t help but ponder if we’re on the brink of a future where household chores will be effortlessly handled by robots moving like a fusion of ballet dancers and horror movie monsters.

With its cadaver-like movements and illuminated head, it’s hard not to speculate whether Atlas is destined to revolutionise robotics or simply rehearsing for a techno-horror rendition of The Nutcracker. As Boston Dynamics continues to push the boundaries of robotics, the line between science fiction and reality becomes increasingly blurred.

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The Coffee confusion causing health concerns

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As the morning sun peeks through the curtains, many reach for that familiar brew, kickstarting their day with a comforting cup of coffee.

It’s a ritual ingrained in cultures worldwide, offering a jolt of energy to combat the grogginess of dawn.

But when is the optimal time for that caffeine fix? According to registered dietitian Anthony DiMarino, RD, LD, the answer isn’t crystal clear.

Some experts suggest delaying that first sip until mid-morning or later. However, DiMarino reassures coffee lovers that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this dilemma.

Meanwhile, the science behind coffee production unveils fascinating insights into its instant variant. Whether produced through freeze-drying or spray-drying methods, instant coffee offers convenience without sacrificing flavor.

Yet, beyond convenience, recent studies delve deeper into coffee’s impact on our bodies. Research exploring the acute effects of decaffeinated versus caffeinated coffee reveals intriguing findings on reaction time, mood, and skeletal muscle strength.

Moreover, investigations into the gut microbiome shed light on coffee’s influence on liver cirrhosis patients. A study analyzing the duodenal microbiome in this population found correlations between coffee consumption and microbial richness and evenness.

So, as you sip your coffee and ponder the day ahead, consider not just the flavour in your cup but also the subtle impacts it may have on your body and mind.

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Laughing in limbo Canadian Just for Laughs cancelled

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The renowned Montreal-based Just for Laughs comedy festival, one of the world’s largest international comedy events, will not grace the calendar in 2024.

The Canadian company overseeing the festival announced its cancellation this year, citing efforts to steer clear of bankruptcy. Having marked its 40th anniversary in 2023, Just For Laughs has long been a beloved fixture on the city’s cultural landscape.

With its absence raising questions about which event will inherit the title of the biggest comedy festival, speculation arises whether Melbourne will seize the mantle, given its burgeoning comedy scene and the success of its own Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

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