Dutton’s nuclear reactor ‘over budget’ and a ‘joke’

Tess Ikonomou |

A type of nuclear reactor put forward by the coalition as an option under its energy plan has been slammed by an energy economist as “irresponsible”.

Seven nuclear power plants would be built at the sites of coal-fired power stations if the coalition wins the federal election.

The coalition wanted to “rely” on the Westinghouse-manufactured AP1000 reactor, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said when unveiling his long-awaited policy.

“In terms of the small, modular reactor, or the AP1000 or whatever it might be, that we believe would be the best for each of those sites, we’ll have those discussions in due course,” Mr Dutton said.

But Curtin University Sustainable Engineering Group’s Associate Professor Liam Wagner rubbished the proposal, because the AP1000 had consistently been late in its build time and was over budget.

The Loy Yang power station.
The coalition wants the Loy Yang power station site, near Melbourne, to house a nuclear reactor. (Julian Smith/AAP PHOTOS)

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

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

The 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 also be built at Northern Power Station in Port Augusta and at Muja Power Station, southeast of Perth.

No costings have been provided.

Associate Professor Wagner was scathing of the coalition’s “absolute joke” of a plan and questioned if they had checked the locations announced were appropriate for nuclear plants.

“We would need to have significant geological investigation into those areas, whether they would be suitable to have that type of plant built there,” he said.

“Are they the right places to install them based on the geological properties of that area? I sincerely doubt that the opposition has sought an opinion on that.”

On the coalition’s pledge that the first two nuclear power plants would be built between 2035 and 2037, Associate Professor Wagner said it was “extremely unlikely”.

“It is undoubtedly extremely difficult to build them and highly technical,” he said.

“We don’t have the human capital here in Australia to be able to do that on our own.

“Even if we were able to procure the right people to build it, I sincerely doubt that it would be built by 2035 … it’s just not feasible.”

Mr Dutton said the planned rollout is sensible and achievable.

The CSIRO last month reported the first nuclear plants would not be achieved until 2040 at the earliest.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the announcement produced many more questions than answers.

“The Liberals and Nationals promised you a sensible energy plan. Instead, they’re giving you a risky nuclear scam,” he said.

“We know that nuclear is too expensive, too slow to build, and too risky for energy reliability.”