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UNSW opens nuclear engineering lab

The Sydney-based University of New South Wales (UNSW) has opened its Nuclear Innovation Centre (UNIC) to advance Australia’s nuclear science industry. The Centre is underpinned by a $7.5 million donation from the Sir William Tyree Foundation, which will fund a research program, scholarships for Masters and PhDs in nuclear engineering, and will support junior academic positions at the new centre.

“Australia has a long and proud history of excellence in nuclear science and technology, and UNSW has led the way,” said Mr Pat Conroy, the Minister for Defence Industry. “This is a fantastic initiative that will bring together experts from different disciplines to collaborate and innovate,” he added.

UNSW was the first university in Australia to offer a nuclear engineering program in 1954 and now has the largest nuclear engineering program in the country. The new centre will play a key role in promoting growth in the field of nuclear science and engineering, Conroy added: “I can’t think of a better time – or a better place than UNSW – to inaugurate a Nuclear Innovation Centre.”

The centre will be fundamental in supporting the federal government’s AUKUS submarine program, which will require thousands of workers trained in a range of skills in the nuclear field.

The UNIC is a cross-disciplinary, cross-industry hub that will initially bring together academics from UNSW and research partners, including the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), the University of Sydney and the University of Wollongong. The centre’s goal is to develop a skilled workforce and future leaders to ensure Australia builds a competitive and prosperous nuclear technology industry. This includes training experts for a range of careers, including engineering, science, law and policy.

The Director of the UNIC, Associate Professor Edward Obbard , said his team was intent on advancing Australia’s nuclear technology for global impact.

“We are growing a nuclear workforce in Australia grounded in academic excellence, diversity and social inclusion, which in turn are foundations for nuclear safety in all Australia’s nuclear activities. We are connecting our research to industry applications and embedding the results of our research in our education programs, so that they continually evolve.”

This generation has the unique opportunity to make a lasting difference in this critical realm, said Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite, who is also the local federal member of parliament.

“The Australian Submarine Agency is up and running,” he added. “The Government has secured land at Osborne in South Australia for both the new submarine construction yard and for the Skills and Training Academy that will help train its workforce. We are committed to supporting the integration of Australian industry into the broader US and UK submarine supply chains.

“Over in Western Australia, we’ve allocated $8 billion dollars over the next decade to expand HMAS Stirling.It will be ready to support the sustainment of US and UK conventionally-armed nuclear-powered submarines from 2027. And it will be ready, in the early 2030s, to serve as the home port for Australia’s first sovereign conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered capability – the Virginia Class submarines.”

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