ANU’s Schmidt takes the deep waters on nuclear submarines

The vice chancellor sets out how to create the needed skills and how ANU can help

In a speech to the Submarine Institute of Australia today Brian Schmidt warns Australia must start scaling up now to have the technology base to maintain and crew nuclear submarines.

“Whatever submarine design ends up being chosen, we won’t be able to build and operate it locally unless we address the fundamental issue of Australia’s workforce capability gap,” his address text states.

Professor Schmidt points to skills gaps, across STEM and policy disciplines and warns, “the strained labour market conditions we face now in 2022 will cripple us in 2032 if we don’t take urgent action now to grow our sovereign capability.”

And he takes the high ground on the potential of ANU as a teaching and research resource to do the growing, including in physics, “for more than 70 years, ANU has been the only university in Australia providing comprehensive training in nuclear physics from undergraduate to postgraduate level,” he says.

The vice chancellor also proposes three things government can do now,

* list “nuclear stewardship” as a Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority, to “support universities who will need to play a central role in building the skills and knowledge base”

* a career pathway towards the nuclear submarine programme for now school-age students

* removing (unspecified) funding rules, “that prevent universities from being more dynamic in meeting national capability priorities.”