Dutton dodging nuclear policy fallout: energy minister

Andrew Brown and Rachael Ward |

Possible nuclear power locations could include sites of current or former coal and gas plants.
Possible nuclear power locations could include sites of current or former coal and gas plants.

The next federal election will be fought on energy policy but communities that would become home to nuclear reactors under an opposition plan have not been consulted, a senior government minister claims.

The coalition has earmarked plans to add nuclear energy to the power grid should it win government.

On Saturday, Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen accused Opposition Leader Peter Dutton of avoiding naming the communities he believes are suited to house nuclear reactors.

While the locations and number are yet to be revealed, Mr Dutton has suggested the nuclear generators could be placed where there are already coal or gas plants, reaching the end of their life.

Locations could include the NSW Hunter Valley, the Latrobe Valley in Victoria, Collie in South Australia and parts of southwest Queensland.

Mr Bowen claimed Mr Dutton had not sought community engagement on the possible locations, accusing the Liberal leader of avoiding some of the electorates flagged as possible sites.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton
Those living near a coal or gas plant would be receptive to nuclear energy, Peter Dutton says. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

“They know where the sites will be, why don’t they tell the Australian people, why don’t they tell those communities?” Mr Bowen said in Sydney on Saturday.

“They say that those communities are in favour, how would they know?”

Mr Dutton continues to flag the imminent announcement of the coalition’s nuclear power proposal, despite previously indicating it would be unveiled before May’s federal budget.

Mr Dutton this week said those living near a coal or gas plant would be receptive to nuclear energy.

“When you look at the communities where there is a high energy IQ, that is where they’ve got a coal-fired power station now, people are in favour (of nuclear) because they understand the technology,” he said on Friday.

“They understand that it’s zero emissions, that it is latest generation, it’s the same technology the government signed up to for the nuclear submarines, so it’s safe for our sailors.”

Mr Bowen said the coalition needed to be forthcoming about its plans to add nuclear to the energy mix.

“The next election will be all about energy policy,” he said.

“Well, the opposition is (yet) to release their energy policy.

“They’ve had multiple opportunities, they’ve failed every one.”

AAP