States slam door on Dutton’s nuclear plan

Peter Dutton’s election promise to build seven nuclear reactors in Australia has been lashed by state premiers. Picture: NewsWire/ Damian Shaw

NSW Premier Chris Minns has led the call from state leaders denouncing Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s plans to build seven nuclear reactors across the country.

On Wednesday, the Liberal leader made an election pledge to build at least two of the government-owned nuclear plants between 2035 and 2037 at existing coal power stations in Liddell and Mount Piper in NSW, Tarong and Callide in Queensland, Victoria’s La Trobe Valley, Collie in Western Australia and Port Augusta in South Australia.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning, Mr Minns said his government had no plans to remove the state’s prohibition on nuclear power plants in NSW.

He questioned how Mr Dutton would constitutionally force states to build nuclear reactors, with energy policy and infrastructure falling under the purview of state governments.

“Firstly, it costs a lot of money. Secondly, it takes a lot of time and we don’t have a day to wait, and I don’t think NSW consumers can pay anymore when it comes to energy prices,” he said.

“The last estimate I saw was that nuclear power generation in this state to replace coal-fired power would cost between $70-$200bn. Who are they going to send that bill to?”

Mr Minns said NSW would continue to prioritise investment into renewable energy, which aims to create at least 12 gigawatts of renewable energy and two gigawatts of long-duration storage by 2030.

A sudden transition to nuclear energy would also threaten the $30bn of private capital investment in renewable energy, with Mr Minns labelling Mr Dutton’s policy as a “sovereign risk”.

“If all of a sudden you were to introduce nuclear power, that investment is at real risk, and I think that’s a sovereign risk for energy and particularly for the narrow path we have to walk to revolutionise our energy sectors in the state.”

NSW Premier Chris Minns said pursuing nuclear energy would risk the state’s $30bn of private capital investment into renewable energy. Picture: NewsWire/ Monique Harmer

His concerns were echoed by his fellow Labor premiers in Victoria and Queensland, as well the potential premier of Queensland, LNP leader David Crisafulli.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allen lashed Mr Dutton’s nuclear policy and vowed to stand with the Gippsland community.

“This is the Liberal Party solutions to the challenges of transitioning our energy mix in this country,” he said.

“They want to bring more expensive, more risky, more toxic energy solutions to the people of this country. We won’t stand for that. We absolutely will not stand for that.”

She also called on the state opposition, including Victorian Opposition Leader John Pesutto, to denounce the policy.

“So unlike the Liberal and National parties who have abandoned time and again the Gippsland community, we will stand with them, we will support them in fighting against this proposal to bring toxic and risky nuclear reactors to the beautiful Gippsland community,” she said.

“The question is will their state Liberal National Party representatives also do this?”

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allen said nuclear energy was a ‘more expensive, more risky, more toxic energy’ solution. Picture: NewsWire/ Kelly Barnes

Historically, Queensland Premier Steven Miles, who will face an election in late October this year, has also dismissed nuclear energy as financially untenable.

“What we know about those nuclear reactors is that they will be much more expensive. As much as five times more expensive for your household power bills,” he said in a May press release.

“We also know that as a result of those reactors, future generations of Queenslanders will have to manage nuclear waste forever.”

Meanwhile, state LNP leader Mr Crisafulli – who could be premier come October 26 according to the polls – said he reaffirmed he had no plan for nuclear energy in Queensland.

“Peter knows my position on it, there’s no secret about that,” he said.

“I’ve been very, very consistent with it. It’s not part of our planning in Queensland.”

Queensland Premier Steven Miles, who is facing an election in October, has dismissed the idea. Picture: NewsWire / John Gass
South Australian . Premier Peter Malinauskas won’t be backing the Coalition on its nuclear energy plan. Picture: NewsWire / Roy VanDerVegt

South Australia Peter Malinauskus has previously supported considering nuclear in the energy mix, but won’t be backing Mr Dutton’s plans.

“I would support nuclear power unless it makes electricity more expensive, and all the evidence says that it will make electricity a lot more expensive,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Mr Dutton said he would be open to working with premiers in a “constructive way” if the Coalition was reinstalled at the next yet-to-be-announced federal election.

“As you know, somebody famously said I would not stand between the Premier and a bucket of money, and we’ve seen the premiers in different debates before where they’ve been able to negotiate with the Commonwealth and will be able to address those issues,” he said.