Australia reveals 7 potential nuclear power station sites

Peter Dutton has announced that the Coalition plans to construct seven nuclear power plants and two small modular reactors, though he dodged questions about the plan’s costs. In a snap Coalition party room meeting, it was revealed that the proposed sites for the nuclear plants include Tarong and Callide in Queensland; Mount Piper and Liddell in New South Wales; Collie in Western Australia; Loy Yang in Victoria; and the Northern power station in South Australia.

Critics argue that this plan is more expensive than renewable energy options and will increase emissions due to a reliance on fossil fuels until the nuclear plants are operational, which the Coalition claims could be as early as 2035, contrary to expert advice. At a Sydney press conference, Dutton confirmed the plants would be owned by the federal government, similar to NBN Co and Snowy Hydro, but he did not disclose the cost to taxpayers, stating it would be released “in due course” but not before the election.

The selected sites are mostly in Coalition-held electorates, including Colin Boyce’s seat of Flynn, Nationals leader David Littleproud’s seat of Maranoa, Rick Wilson’s seat of O’Connor, and Rowan Ramsey’s seat of Grey, with Liddell in Labor MP Dan Repacholi’s seat of Hunter and Mount Piper in independent MP Andrew Gee’s electorate of Calare. The locations were chosen based on water availability, grid connection, and the closure dates of existing coal power plants. None of these sites are currently owned by the government, which Dutton suggested could be resolved through compulsory acquisition.

Dutton stated that the seven sites “can host new nuclear sites and that’ll be part of an energy mix with renewables and significant amounts of gas, particularly in the interim period.” He added that the construction of nuclear plants would “utilize the existing distribution networks” as coal plants are phased out. The CSIRO’s GenCost report suggests a 15+ year development time for nuclear in Australia, meaning a plant would likely not be operational before 2040 if the decision was made next year. However, Dutton proposed that building two plants by 2035-37, with the rest completed in the 2040s, was “achievable.”

Dutton claimed the Coalition would work with experts to determine the best technology for each site, with the media release indicating that the power stations in Western and South Australia would be “SMR only,” despite SMRs not currently being commercially available. He argued that the technology for nuclear submarines could be adapted for civilian electricity.

The federal Coalition has increased pressure on Labor to lift the nuclear energy ban but faces opposition from state-level Coalition members. Nuclear power is banned in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, with Queensland Liberal National Party leader David Crisafulli ruling out repealing the state’s nuclear ban. Dutton acknowledged “some debate” among Coalition members but suggested the federal government would negotiate with premiers if elected.

The Coalition downplayed potential local community opposition, with shadow energy minister Ted O’Brien asserting they will benefit from “the cheapest and cleanest and most consistent energy in the country,” and Dutton stating that former coal communities are “instantly supportive of this proposal.”

The CSIRO’s latest GenCost report indicates that electricity from nuclear energy would be at least 50% more expensive than from solar and wind, with a theoretical 1,000MW nuclear plant costing at least $8.6 billion. Clean Energy Council CEO Kane Thornton criticized the policy as “a recipe for delay and skyrocketing energy bills,” noting that building new reactors would take at least 20 years given Australia has no existing nuclear industry. Treasurer Jim Chalmers described the Coalition’s policy as “economic insanity,” citing longer timelines, higher costs, and the squandering of Australia’s renewable energy advantages.

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