Nuclear scientists at the Australian National University are gearing up to be part of the federal government's plans to develop nuclear-powered submarines in an effort to bolster defences in the region.
While it's still early days, professors Mahananda Dasgupta and Andrew Stuchbery are excited nuclear science is the conversation on everyone's lips right now.
They're both part of the university's nuclear physics department and believe the recent announcement will help give graduates a reason to stay and work in the country.
The deal announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison will deliver eight submarines to the country by 2040 in a move expected to bolster Australia's capability in the Indo-Pacific region.
Prof Stuchbery said it was a game-changer for his department and students.
"It ushers in a new era for the nation," he said.
"In the past Australia's nuclear technology workforce needs have been minimal and a lot of talented and trained people from across nuclear science have headed overseas.
"So it is absolutely vital we build sovereign capability in nuclear science. That's exactly what we do every day at ANU."
The Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility at the Acton campus stands 40 metres tall and works like a powerful microscope for the minuscule nucleus of atoms, its director Prof Dasgupta described.
It helps students see the science behind nuclear power.
The hands-on training the facility provides puts the national university in a unique position to train Australia's next generation of nuclear scientists, the professor said.
Academics and experts from around the world come to Australia to train rather than the other way around, she added.
"There would not be very many places where students would have access to such state-of-the-art and highly complex instrumentation," she said.
"It is unique in Australia. It's rare in the world and such training doesn't come on tap."
Both professors were happy to see nuclear science on the government's radar.
While many in the public might conjure up images of Chernobyl, Prof Stuchbery said it was used for many ordinary applications, from getting an X-ray to monitoring ground water.
His research was right now looking into whether uranium mining projects were exposing traditional Indigenous bush foods to radiation.
"I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the world is a safer nuclear world as a result of our graduates in leadership roles internationally," Prof Stuchbery said.
While the federal government has yet to engage the department directly, Prof Dasgupta was confident their work made it a logical step.
"We are ready for it, whenever the government wants to engage with us," she said.
"It is an opportunity for us to serve the nation, more than what we have been doing and it is an opportunity for the people trained at the accelerator to remain in Australia.
"It is very appropriate and an opportune time for Australia to be thinking more widely, and for [ANU], as a university involved in training, to think ahead as to what would be required for the nation."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: