Manufacturing News

Adelaide manufacturing goes nuclear

Manufacturing News

The Nuclear Skills Forum has expanded to South Australia with the official launch of the Adelaide branch, writes Michael Sharpe.

A growing range of manufacturers gathered onsite at Centralian Controls to hear all the latest in the accelerating nuclear industry. It was pleasing to see the expansion of the Forum from initially just three companies to a growing cohort gathering to explore opportunities across Australia.

Meeting each month over the last year and a half, the game changer was the AUKUS announcement for a nuclear submarine fleet and the potential for Australian industry. We continue to meet on the factory floor of Forum Members and recent site visits have included Omni Tanker and Eilbeck Heavy Machining in Western Sydney. We decided to hold a nuclear industry event during Australian Manufacturing Week and we filled the room at the International Convention Centre!

Earlier meetings were held with NuScale Power to discuss their Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design and building global supply chains. NuScale has since gone on to a listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Rolls Royce engaged with the Forum to detail the manufacturing of SMR’s and soon after the UK Prime Minister announced over $360m AUD to develop the plants across the United Kingdom.

Earlier this year it emerged that a US energy developer, backed by a fund linked to Elon Musk, was in talks with the Government to build a small fleet of small nuclear reactors across the UK.

Last Energy wants to build its first mini-nuclear power plant by 2025 and is in advanced talks over sites in England and Wales.

Since our first meeting, Dr Edward Obbard, who leads nuclear engineering at UNSW, has provided terrific presentations about our aims for collaboration which includes familiarising members with nuclear engineering practices and the characteristics of nuclear technology. Ed and I both agree that Australia has the potential to be a world leader in the nuclear supply chain, so what’s holding us back? There is already incredible research, manufacturing, and skill building happening right here on our shores, and the global skills shortage in qualified nuclear engineers opens incredible opportunities for local companies to fill the gaps in international nuclear supply chains – It’s just a matter of connecting them with the global champions of the industry.

The upcoming Nuclear Skills, Research, and Advanced Manufacturing (SKRAM) Symposium offers a unique opportunity to showcase nuclear research, enrich professional networks, and gain a glimpse into the future Australian nuclear industry.

Future meetings are being planned for Newcastle and the Illawarra, which may soon be named as the East Coast Base for the nuclear submarine fleet. The official launch of a Melbourne branch of the Nuclear Skills Forum will be held in the near future. 

AUKUS will be much more than nuclear submarines and the opportunities will expand into infrastructure and energy too. The new United States Ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy, presented her credentials to the Governor-General and spoke of the AUKUS partnership last week. “I think AUKUS is a really significant partnership between three of the closest allies,” she said. “It includes submarines but also other areas of co-operation that will provide great benefits to all our countries.”

The access to global supply chains and sharing of technologies across industry will help build Australia for the decades ahead. The skills uplift will be integral to benefit Australians today and for the generations to come. Technology moves fast, I remember my school teachers saying “you won’t always have a calculator in your pocket” – well we showed them!

Michael Sharpe is the National Director for Industry at the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre; a Director of the Sharpe Family Office and Founder of the Nuclear Skills Forum.

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