Opposition eyeing off six sites for nuclear reactors

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton will stand in parliament tonight to deliver his federal budget reply.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton will stand in parliament tonight to deliver his federal budget reply. Photo: Getty

Households and businesses close to the six nuclear power reactors the opposition hopes to see built could have their energy bills subsidised.

Teasing the coalition’s yet-to-be-unveiled energy policy at the Australian Financial Review Business Summit in Sydney on Tuesday, opposition leader Peter Dutton said the plan would likely include six nuclear plant sites.

Tasmania has been ruled out as a potential host state.

Dutton said the coalition would seek a social licence by incentivising close-by communities with subsided energy, a model he said was used in the United States.

“It provides incentive for industry to establish jobs,” he told the audience.

The opposition is expected to release its energy policy ahead of the federal budget in May, with the plan likely to include overturning the moratorium on nuclear technology and possible sites for reactors on old coal station locations to take advantage of existing transmission infrastructure.

Dutton said nuclear power should be viewed as a companion to renewables.

“Nuclear is the only proven technology which emits zero emission and firms up renewables.”

The Albanese government has dismissed nuclear as an unsuitable technology for Australia that has a high price tag and will take too long to roll out.

Energy experts also say it’s difficult to estimate the cost of transitioning to nuclear given the technology is not currently commercially available.

Dutton addressed a number of what he described as “straw man arguments” against nuclear, including cost.

He used other regions with nuclear in the energy mix – South Korea and the Ontario region of Canada – to make his case for the system-wide cost of the energy source and its influence on power bills.

Reactors also produce a “small amount of waste” and Dutton said the government had already signed up to deal with nuclear waste via the AUKUS agreement.

Speaking at the business conference on Monday evening, Business Council of Australia president Geoff Culbert said the politics of climate action had become “so binary” it was making it difficult to achieve.

Culbert said the nation still did not have a detailed, long-term plan to get to net zero.

“And the business community – who will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting – have no long-term certainty on what they can invest against in an environment where targets may change every time there is a change in government,” he said.

He called for an independent expert body to devise a net zero plan to insulate it from political game playing.

He did not mention nuclear but said gas would be needed in the transition period until battery technology gets to scale or other substitutes become available.


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