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Port Kembla's Future as Submarine Base Uncertain

Port Kembla is a major port city in New South Wales, Australia. It is located on the Illawarra coast roughly 80 kilometres south of Sydney. The port is the largest in New South Wales, and the third-largest port in Australia, and serves as a major shipping and industrial centre, home to a number of steel and coal-fired power plants.

A nuclear submarine and a birds-eye-view phot of Port Kembla with the text "Port Kembla" foregrounded.

Potential Site for AUKUS Nuclear Submarines

In 2021 the Australian government announced that it would be acquiring nuclear-powered submarines as part of the AUKUS agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom. In 2022 Port Kembla was suggested as a suitable site for the submarines, alongside Brisbane and Newcastle, by the Coalition Government. Port Kembla was highlighted due to its deepwater access which would allow vessels a more direct and "stealthy" access than other ports.

The community reacted to the proposal with concerns regarding the stationing of nuclear vessels in their area. Wollongong councillor, Cath Blakey, reported that the community was concerned that by making Port Kembla the base for the submarines this would make it a military target:

"It's causing alarm that it could make us a potential military target...We want to see the focus on peacekeeping and public infrastructure, not nuclear proliferation...I think it's a potential sovereign risk to Australia to be hitching ourselves to the US and the UK."

In May of 2023 the Labor Government announced that other locations would be considered for the site, with Assistant Defence Minister, Matt Thistlethwaite, stating that "everything is on the table":

"There are a number of factors — deepwater ports are essential, ensuring that there is a domestic industry base that can service a base like that, ensuring there is a skilled work force...We will consult with industry partners, but importantly we will consult with local communities before we make a decision."

Sources & Further Reading

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