Peter Dutton to reveal nuclear power locations ‘soon’ amid energy debate

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Australians “won’t have to wait long” to find out if the Coalition plans to build a nuclear reactor in their backyard, with policy and possible locations to be announced soon.

The Coalition won’t be drawn on reports it is set to announce the locations of up to seven proposed power sites within weeks, which according to Nine Newspapers, could include sites in two Liberal-held seats and four or five Nationals-held seats.

They reportedly include the Latrobe Valley and Anglesea in Victoria, the Hunter Valley in NSW, Collie in WA, Port Augusta in South Australia, and potentially a plant in the southwest Queensland electorate of Maranoa, held by Nationals leader David Littleproud.

All of those areas currently house coal or gas-fired power stations.

Coalition energy spokesman Ted O’Brien wouldn’t comment directly on whether the opposition had those sites in its sights, offering instead a promise of an announcement “in due course”.

But, given the Coalition has been saying for months its plans are to build nuclear power plants at sites with retiring coal or gas-fired stations, there’s a strong likelihood those locations could come to fruition.

“We’ve been talking about the importance as coal exits the system for our electricity grid, is an opportunity for us to replace it with like for like, 24/7, always-on power, coming from zero-emissions nuclear energy power plant,” Mr O’Brien told 2GB.

“I can’t be confirming (where locations might be), but the Australian people won’t have to wait long because we’ve been very upfront and transparent from the get-go.”

On Wednesday, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the location of the nuclear reactors would be made clear “in due course”.

“There’s 12 months, the Prime Minister says, before the next election, and our detail of that and many other policies will be announced in due course,” he said.

Asked directly if Collie was a location, Mr Dutton said he hadn’t “ruled it out or in”.

“I’ve said that we’re looking at coal-fired power stations that are coming to an end of life,” he said.

Mr Dutton also dismissed the CSIRO’s annual GenCost report, after it found the country’s hypothetical first large-scale nuclear reactor could cost up to $17bn and take until 2040 to be built.

Moreover, the report found the cost of the electricity it would generate would be twice as much as that of renewables.

Mr Dutton said the report was “based on the current government settings, which are against the use of nuclear”, and said it didn’t consider what he claimed was a more than trillion dollar cost for the government’s renewables rollout.

Mr O’Brien said while some of the capital cost assumptions in the report were unproblematic, it was “hard to say exactly what the first plant would cost”.

He said the report was a blueprint for investors, and the Coalition was centring its nuclear policy around what would be best for consumers.

“Once you have nuclear in the mix, prices come down,” he said.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers, meanwhile, said the CSIRO report “torpedoes” Mr Dutton’s nuclear “fantasy”.

“I think the CSIRO has completely torpedoed this uncosted nuclear fantasy of Peter Dutton’s,” he said.

“The madness of this I think is laid bare in the CSIRO report for Australia we have immense opportunity in the renewable sector as the world transitions to net zero.”

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