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Australian opposition outlines its nuclear plans

19 June 2024

Leaders of the Australian opposition have confirmed that a future Australian Federal Coalition Government would introduce nuclear energy in the country, and announced seven locations where plants could be built.

Dutton (left) and Littlechild annonce the coalition’s energy policy (Image: David Littleproud/Facebook)

Each of the locations announced by Peter Dutton, leader of the Liberal-National Coalition, its deputy leader David Littleproud and Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Ted O’Brien is the site of a power station that has closed or is scheduled to close.

“The Coalition believes Australia must have a balanced energy mix to deliver cheaper, cleaner and consistent 24/7 electricity,” they said. “Ninety per cent of baseload electricity, predominantly coal-fired power stations, is coming to the end of life over the next decade. Nuclear energy for Australia is an idea whose time has come. Today, we are announcing that a future Federal Coalition Government will introduce zero-emissions nuclear energy in Australia, which has proven to get electricity prices and emissions down all over the world, to work in partnership with renewable energy and gas as part of a balanced energy mix.”

Their government would initially develop two projects using either small modular reactors (SMRs) or larger plants such as the AP1000 or APR1400, to be in operation by 2035 if SMR plants are built or 2037 for larger plants if these “are found to be the best option”. These assets would be owned by the Australian government, but would be built and operated in partnership with “experienced nuclear companies”.

The sites identified by the coalition are:

  • Liddell Power Station (New South Wales)
  • Mount Piper Power Station (New South Wales)
  • Loy Yang Power Stations (Victoria)
  • Tarong Power Station (Queensland)
  • Callide Power Station (Queensland)
  • Northern Power Station (South Australia)
  • Muja Power Station (Western Australia)

The sites in South Australia and Western Australia are earmarked for SMRs only.

“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,” the leaders said. Replacing retired or retiring coal plants would avoid much of the spending that would be needed for a ‘renewables-only’ system, including new transmission poles and wires, and host communities would also benefit from high paying, multi-generational jobs and other regional economic benefits.

Australian national science agency CSIRO, in its annual GenCost report, recently estimated the capital cost for Australian deployment of a large-scale nuclear plant to be AUD8665 (USD5775) per kilowatt, and says it is not economically competitive with renewables. Dutton told journalists that the Coalition’s plan would come in cheaper than what he said was the AUD1.2-1.5 trillion price of the current Labor Party-led government’s renewable-based proposals. “Our proposal will cost a fraction of that cost. We’ll have more to say in relation to the cost in due course,” he said.

Australia’s Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen described the opposition’s plan as “risky”, with no detail, costs or modelling. “It’s too slow, too expensive and too risky for Australia,” he said on X.

Referring to earlier comments by Bowen, Dutton told journalists he would be happy for the next Australian election – which must take place before 27 September 2025 – to be “a referendum on energy, on nuclear, on power prices, on lights going out, on who has a sustainable pathway for our country going forward”.

The Liberal-National Coalition, also known as the LNP, is a long-running alliance of the Liberal Party of Australia, led by Dutton, and the National Party, led by Littleproud.

Local benefits

Colin Boyce is the member of parliament for the electorate of Flynn in Queensland, where one of those sites – the Callide Power Station – is situated. He welcomed the announcement, saying such a project would provide jobs and opportunities to the local community while also providing 24/7 reliable baseload power for Central Queensland.

“Without transitioning to nuclear, the Callide Power Station is set to close in the future and some 250 jobs will leave that economy,” he said.

“The Callide Power Station site offers 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 and experienced workforce,” he added.

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