Turbines at a wind farm.
Two-thirds of survey respondents believe Australia's 2030 emissions reduction target is inadequate. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Nuclear conflict brews in coalition over renewables

June 20, 2024

An internal rift is emerging in the coalition over nuclear power as the major parties prepare for battle over Australia’s energy future.

The opposition has vowed to build seven nuclear plants at the sites of coal-fired power stations if it wins the next election but has been criticised for not revealing costs.

Some Liberals have suggested there will be a big contribution from renewable energy at the same time leading Nationals want to restrict wind and sun-generated power.

 James Paterson is keen for renewables to be part of the coalition’s energy proposal. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Liberal senator James Paterson said his party supported renewable energy. 

“Renewables will be an important part of the mix as it is internationally,” he said on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Nationals leader David Littleproud said the coalition should send a clear policy that large-scale renewable projects would be restricted.

“We want to send the investment signals that there is a cap on where we will go with renewables and where we will put them,” he said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the cheapest form of new energy was renewable.

“That’s why there is no one in the business community who’s putting their hand up, not a single bank, not a single financier, not a single equity firm, saying ‘yeah, we want to be involved in this’,” he said.

Labor has committed $22.7 billion over the next decade for its Future Made in Australia plan, which aims to increase investment from the private sector for the energy transition.

Voters would have a clear choice at the election, Energy Minister Chris Bowen said.

“Our energy policy, which we’ve been very clear about and implementing, and their fantasy which they can’t answer key questions on,” he said.

More details of the coalition’s nuclear plan would be revealed “in bite-sized bits”, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said.

“We want the information out there in bite-sized bits so that people can consume exactly what it is that we’re proposing and understand what it’s not proposing,” he said.

The coalition has promised to detail the cost of nuclear reactors before the election expected early next year.

Liam Wagner, an associate professor in sustainable energy systems at Curtin University, poked holes in the nuclear proposal.

He rubbished a potential reliance on Westinghouse-manufactured reactors, which had experienced delays and budget blowouts abroad.

“It would be irresponsible to seek that as the preferred option, given the significant delays that it’s faced in installation in the US,” Dr Wagner told AAP.

“It’s essentially like ripping up $100 bills.”

A file photo of the Liddell Power Station
 The Liddell power station in NSW’s Hunter region has also been nominated as a nuclear reactor site. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

Sites nominated for nuclear plants include Loy Yang Power Station in Victoria, Callide and Tarong in Queensland, Mount Piper at Lithgow in central west NSW and Liddell in NSW’s Hunter region.

Small, modular reactors would be built at Northern Power Station in Port Augusta and at Muja Power Station, southeast of Perth.

Dr Wagner questioned whether the coalition checked the locations were appropriate for nuclear plants.