Seven sites which could potentially host nuclear energy if Australia’s main opposition party wins the next Federal election in 2025 have been unveiled.

In a joint statement, Opposition leader Peter Dutton and Deputy Opposition Leader David Littleproud have outlined key details of the Coalition’s plan to develop nuclear energy in Australia if it wins the next election.

Under the Coalition’s plan, the Commonwealth Government will initially develop two establishment nuclear projects.

These will use either small modular reactors or modern larger plants such as the AP10000 or AP1400.

They will start producing energy by either 2035 if small reactors are chosen or 2037 if modern larger plants are found to the be the best option.

The Commonwealth would own the assets but would form partnerships with experienced nuclear companies to build and run them.

As part of their announcement, Dutton and Littleproud have unveiled seven locations where nuclear reactors could be built.

Each of the locations are on the site of existing power stations which are either closed or scheduled to close as the nation’s coal plants progressively close down between now and 2038.

The seven plants are:

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

According to Dutton and Littleproud, each of the locations offer important technical attributes which are needed for nuclear power.

These include cooling water capacity, the ability to connect to the grid via existing transmission infrastructure and skilled local workforces.

The use of existing sites as a strategy aims to capitalise on a key advantage of nuclear plants in terms of their ability to be plugged in to existing power grid connections.

This avoids the need to build additional transmission lines which are needed in the case of renewable energy generation to connect new wind or solar farms to the energy grid.

To facilitate community consultation, a ‘community partnership’ will be formed in each host community involving local representatives.

(Mount Piper Power Station in NSW)

The latest announcement comes as the Liberal/National Coalition clashes with the current Labor Government over Australia’s energy future. This is taking place as the nation aims to reduce the volume of greenhouse gas emissions which occur out of energy generation whilst still delivering reliable energy supply.

The Government is pinning its hopes on solar and wind (offshore and onshore) supported by storage technologies such as batteries and pumped hydro as well as additional transmission to connect new renewable generation assets to the power grid.

Toward this end, it is aiming to increase the penetration of renewable energy from 40 percent of the nation’s overall electricity generation in 2023 to 82 percent by 2030.

The Government says that renewables supported by storage and additional transmission is the least expensive form of renewable generation.

The Government also argues that renewables are able to be delivered much more quickly compared with nuclear – development of which is expected to take at least a decade even if small modular reactors are used. This is critical as all coal plants – which currently deliver more than half of Australia’s electricity generation – are expected to close by 2038.

Some proponents of renewables are also concerned about the safety implications of nuclear plants in the event of accidents, sabotage or attack as well as the storage of nuclear waste.

The Government has drawn some support for its arguments through the 2023/24 edition of the GenCost report which was recently published by the CSIRO.

That report showed that renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy on a levelised cost basis. This is the case even after allowing for costs associated with storage which is necessary to support renewables along with additional transmission which is needed to connect new renewable assets to the grid.

Furthermore, the CSIRO estimated that the first nuclear facility would not be able to be delivered until at least 2035 in the case of small modular reactors or 2040 in the case of large nuclear power plants. This contracts the Coalition’s claim that large nuclear facilities could be delivered by 2037.

By contrast, the Coalition’s policy focus on nuclear power. It says that nuclear should at least be part of the clean energy mix.

The Coalition argues that nuclear energy provides clean and reliable power (as opposed to the intermittent nature of renewables).

Having nuclear as part of the energy mix, Dutton says, will deliver a more reliable alternative compared with ‘Labor’s expensive all-eggs-in-one basket ‘renewables-only’ policy’.

In addition, the Coalition and proponents of nuclear energy argue that nuclear offers other advantages compared with an all-renewables approach.

For one thing, inclusion of nuclear in the energy mix will help to reduce the impacts in terms of land, biodiversity, agriculture and communities which may be expected to result from a mass rollout of large-scale wind, solar and transmission installations.

This is especially prevalent given that the nuclear facilities will be constructed at the site of existing coal-fired power stations.

Beyond this, Dutton says that nuclear plants have an operating life of up to 80 years.

This is much longer compared with renewable assets. Solar panels, for example, are generally guaranteed for 25 years.

Dutton also disputes that nuclear is more expensive compared with renewables. However, he has not provided any costings for his policy or any substantive evidence to support his claim in this area.

In the statement, Dutton said that Australia needed to have a mature conversation about nuclear as an option.

“We know the Prime Minister and his Government will mount the mother-of-all scare campaigns on zero-emissions nuclear energy,” Dutton said.

“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.

“If you are serious about meeting our net zero by 2050 emissions commitments, then you must include zero-emission nuclear as part of your energy mix. Zero-emission nuclear power plants produce no air pollution or carbon emissions. For example, a 1.1 GW AP-1000 reactor cuts approximately seven million metric tonnes of CO2 emissions, equivalent to removing 1.5 million cars from the road.

“A zero-emissions nuclear power plant will be a national asset delivering cheaper, cleaner and consistent energy for 80 years. Getting started now on establishing a civil nuclear programme is the right decision for you, your children and your grandchildren.

“From today, we will be speaking right across the country on the merits of our plan.

“Our plan is bold, visionary and what Australians need to secure our energy and economic future.”

Not surprisingly, the Opposition’s announcement has been welcomed by nuclear lobby groups but heavily criticised by renewable energy lobby groups.

Dr John Harris, Secretary of the Australian Nuclear Association, welcomed the Coalition’s plan.

“The Australian Nuclear Association welcomes the Peter Dutton’s announcement that the Coalition will include nuclear energy in Australia’s energy system,” Harris said.

“Nuclear energy is a well-established technology used in over 30 countries to produce reliable and very low carbon electricity. We need all technologies – wind, solar, hydro and nuclear – if Australia is to meet the challenge of climate change.

“Nuclear energy is a real option for Australia – adding nuclear energy would improve security of electricity supply reduce carbon emissions.  The Australian Nuclear Association hopes for a mature discussion of the nuclear energy and its potential role in Australia’s energy mix.”

But Kane Thornton, CEO of renewable energy lobby group Clean energy Council, slammed the announcement.

“The Coalition’s nuclear energy policy is a recipe for delay and skyrocketing energy bills,” Thornton said.

“Australia has no nuclear power industry, so building new reactors would take at least 20 years and cost six times more. 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.

“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.

Tony Wood, Director of the Energy Program at Grattan Institute, said that he does not object to nuclear energy per se and that nuclear may in fact have a role in the 2040s.

As for the sites which have been identified by the Coalition, Wood says he does not see any problem with these. That said, he cautions that the sites may not be simple for the Commonwealth to acquire.

However, he says there are many unanswered questions about the Coalition’s nuclear policy.

And he doubts Dutton’s claim that current high prices are due to Labor’s renewable energy policy.

“This is such a fundamental change in direction that the Opposition needs to provide a more compelling case than we might normally demand of opposition parties,” Wood said.

“Everything we have so far says nuclear would be much more expensive. If the Opposition provided a supportable cost figure (even order-of-magnitude) then others, including the Labor Government can compare that with Plan A which itself is not cheap.

“There is also a timing problem (as with Labor’s 82% renewables plan) which needs the coal shutdown to align with the nuclear startup. There would seem to be a big gap here and it’s not clear how the Opposition is planning to fill it.

“An unusual part of the Opposition’s proposal is that the nuclear plants would government-owned and operated.

“Putting aside the unusual position for Labor to be pushing private capital and the Coalition pushing public capital, there are no numbers to support the price claims (being made by Dutton). I am pretty sure that Dutton’s claim that high prices are down to Labor’s renewables policies is just wrong. Prices are coming down a tad from 1 July and they went up over the last 2 years for reasons that had little to do with renewables.

“If we abandon Plan A, what will the Opposition do about the emissions that will occur between now and when the nuclear is in place?”


Enjoying Sourceable articles? Subscribe for Free and receive daily updates of all articles which are published on our site


Want to grow your sales, reach more new clients and expand your client base across Australia’s design and construction sector?

Advertise on Sourceable and have your business seen by the thousands of architects, engineers, builders/construction contractors, subcontractors/trade contractors, property developers and building industry suppliers who read our stories across the civil, commercial and residential construction sector