Dutton plans nuclear reactors at seven sites in five states

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Federal Liberal leader Peter Dutton has announced the Coalition will build seven nuclear power plants in five states if it is elected, claiming the first sites could start operating from between 2035 and 2037, several years earlier than many experts believe is achievable.

The government-owned nuclear plants would be built at the sites of coal-fired power stations that have closed or are scheduled to close.

The seven sites are at Tarong and Callide in Queensland, Liddell and Mount Piper in New South Wales, the La Trobe Valley in Victoria, Port Augusta in South Australia, and Collie in Western Australia.

The Opposition said each of the locations have “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 Coalition said a key advantage of the nuclear power plants is they could be plugged into existing grids.

“This means they can effectively replace retired or retiring coal plants and avoid much of the new spending needed for Labor’s ‘renewables-only’ system, including new transmission poles and wires,” it said in a statement.

Dutton said a federal Coalition government will initially develop two establishment projects using either small modular reactors or larger-scale plants, depending on what is deemed to be “the best option.”

In a statement, Dutton indicated a 2035 start date would be achievable if small modular reactors are chosen and 2037 if larger plants are chosen.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton is among those who have condemned the nuclear policy, declaring that building new reactors would take at least 20 years and cost six times more than wind and solar alternatives.

“This is a policy that would deliver nothing for at least 20 years, result in much higher power prices and risk the lights going out as coal power stations continue to close,” he said.

“No Australian community wants a nuclear reactor on its doorstep and no Australian family wants to share communities and roads with truckloads of nuclear waste.”

​“As ageing and increasingly costly coal-fired power stations exit our energy system, only renewables firmed by storage is capable of preventing blackouts and power price spikes no family or business can afford.”

The Coalition policy says the Australian government would own the planned nuclear generators but will form partnerships with “experienced nuclear companies” to build and operate them.

At the launch of the policy in Sydney, Dutton did not give a cost for the nuclear plan, saying “comprehensive site studies” would be needed before that price tag could be revealed.

Also unclear is the generation capacity of the reactors and the time frame for all seven sites, beyond the promise that the first projects could be operational from 2035 to 2037.

Dutton said the Opposition would have more to say on the policy “in due course” and he expects Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his government will mount the “mother-of-all scare campaigns” on zero-emissions nuclear energy.

“But we believe Australians are up for this discussion and are open-minded about including zero-emissions nuclear technology as part of a balanced energy mix,” he said.

“Australia is fast running out of energy. The way of life for everyday Australians and the cost of doing business in Australia is already in jeopardy and it is only going to get worse under Labor’s expensive all-eggs-in-one-basket renewables-only policy.”

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