Dutton’s nuclear plan ‘collapses under scrutiny’

ANNOUNCING the Coalition’s plan for the nation’s energy future last week, Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said “nuclear energy for Australia is an idea whose time has come”.

“Of the world’s 20 largest economies, Australia is the only one not using nuclear energy, or moving towards using it,” he said.

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Mr Dutton proposed seven sites across the country on which an elected Coalition government would build “zero-emissions nuclear power plants”, including the decommissioned Liddell Power Station near Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley.

The other NSW site suggested is the Mount Piper Power Station in the state’s Central West.

“Each of these locations offer important technical attributes needed for a zero-emissions nuclear plant, including cooling water capacity and transmission infrastructure, that is, we can use the existing poles and wires, along with a local community which has a skilled workforce,” Mr Dutton said.

“A key advantage of modern zero-emissions nuclear plants is they can be plugged into existing grids.”

The Opposition Leader claimed communities chosen to house a nuclear plant would benefit from “high paying, multi-generational jobs”, regional economic development and improved infrastructure.

The Coalition proposes initially to develop two establishment projects using either small modular reactors or modern larger plants.

Mr Dutton claimed last week a small modular reactor could begin producing electricity by 2035, while larger plants could deliver electricity by 2037.

In response, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has described the Coalition’s nuclear plan as “farcical”.

“They’ve made an announcement without any substance, no costings, no real timelines, no idea of what form the reactors will take, how big they will be, what the engagement with the community is,” Mr Albanese told Sky News.

In the wake of the Coalition announcement last week, Greens leader Adam Bandt took the opportunity to slam both major parties.

“Peter Dutton’s nuclear ‘plan’ is a dangerous smokescreen for keeping coal and gas in the system for longer,” Bandt said.

“Peter Dutton’s plan can’t be implemented, because he can’t win government nor repeal the nuclear ban in the Senate, but Labor loves this fake fight because it distracts attention from Labor opening new coal and gas.

“It’s becoming clearer by the day that neither Labor nor the Liberals care about taking strong climate action.”

Last Friday during Question Time, NSW Premier Chris Minns declared in no uncertain terms that the state government “will not be repealing the ban on nuclear produced energy in New South Wales”.

“According to the New South Wales Department for Climate Change, Energy and Environment, they estimate that large scale nuclear reactors would cost $70 billion to replace the 8300 megawatts of coal fired power stations,” Mr Minns said.

“If you were to do the small scale modular nuclear reactors, the number would increase to $211 billion.

“CSIRO says small scale nuclear is $230 to $380 a megawatt hour.

“Large scale nuclear is up to $230 a megawatt hour, and wind and solar is between $90 and $120 a megawatt hour.”

Port Stephens-based environment group EcoNetwork says it is “emphatically opposed to the siting of a nuclear power plant in Muswellbrook or indeed anywhere in Australia”.

“High cost, time to completion, environmental and health risks all add up to nuclear being a bad idea,” said EcoNetwork’s Vice President Sue Olsson.

“Muswellbrook is already on the way to becoming a renewables powerhouse, with AGL having decommissioned the Liddell coal power station, now preparing the site for future use as part of the Hunter Energy Hub.

“Projects include pumped hydro including use of an existing mine void and a 500 MW/2GWh grid scale battery, one of Australia’s biggest, on the Liddell site, with construction already under way.

“The question is, why would the Opposition Leader want to site a nuclear power station where a renewables makeover has already commenced?

“It makes no sense.”

Ms Olsson told News Of The Area the Coalition’s nuclear plan “collapses when it comes under scrutiny”.

“As Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor from Griffith University says, the proposal for seven nuclear power stations is, at present, legally impossible, technically improbable, economically irrational and environmentally irresponsible,” she said.

EcoNetwork’s biggest concern centres on environmental impact.

“Eleven of the eighteen coal plants Australia has left are set to close over the next decade,” Ms Olsson said.

“The best estimates are that it takes around ten years for planning and licensing and nine years to build a nuclear power station, so all up around 20 years.

“Attempting to implement nuclear will delay the transition away from coal and gas, and increase household electricity bills, while we await the arrival of nuclear.”

Ms Olsson also noted “significant community, environment and health risks posed by nuclear power”, as well as the high levels of water usage required to cool the reactors, and the storage of radioactive waste.

“And then there is cost,” she said.

“Nuclear is currently the most expensive new-build electricity generation technology, particularly compared to renewables.

“Government subsidies funded by the taxpayer would be required over the long term.”

On Monday, the Lyne Electorate Council Chairman announced a ‘Nuclear Energy Information Forum’ would be held on July 10 in Lorn, featuring Federal Lyne MP Dr David Gillespie and Mr Robert Parker, the founder of Nuclear for Climate.

The event will be held at the Lorn Bowls Sports and Recreation Club at 6pm and will promote nuclear power’s “potential to provide Australians with cheap and reliable electricity”.

“Australia’s current energy policy is not serving our country’s short, medium and long-term best interests,” Lyne Electorate Council Chairman Alison Penfold Penfold said.

“The Nationals with our Coalition partners have put nuclear energy on the table because we believe that we should be utilising all viable energy systems to ensure that Australians have access to cheap, reliable, and sustainable electricity.

“Whether as a nation we ultimately decide to proceed with nuclear power, we should be able to have an objective discussion about the technology, how it works, the risks, costs and benefits.”

Dr Gillespie said he is looking forward to talking with his constituents about nuclear energy.

“The supply of cheap and reliable energy is a critical ingredient to business growth and job creation across the Hunter and mid coast,” Dr Gillespie said.

“I know of local businesses whose growth is restricted because they can’t get any more electricity from suppliers.

“This situation is ridiculous.”

For more information visit https://NuclearForumLorn.eventbrite.com.au.

This is the Lyne Federal Electorate Council’s second Nuclear Energy Information Forum, with one scheduled for Taree on Tuesday 9 July.

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