7 June 2024

'I'll be turning up on Tuesday': Fang to front Wagga Council over nuclear notice of motion

| Chris Roe
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MLC Wes Fang believes Cr Jenny Mckinnon has taken him out of context on 'nuclear for Wagga' comments.

MLC Wes Fang believes Cr Jenny Mckinnon has taken him out of context on “nuclear for Wagga” comments. Photo: Chris Roe.

The weather may have turned cold, but things are likely to heat up at Wagga City Council over a nuclear notice of motion (NOM) being brought by Greens councillor Jenny McKinnon.

Cr McKinnon wants to rule out a nuclear energy future for the local government area in response to comments made by Nationals MLC Wes Fang in which she alleges that he called for “Nuclear for Wagga”.

Mr Fang has declared that he will address Tuesday night’s council meeting to push back on the NOM that he described as a “scare-mongering stunt”.

“The Wagga community should be aware that Mr Fang is not only calling for nuclear energy for Australia, he is suggesting Wagga as the location for a nuclear power plant,” Cr McKinnon said in council’s agenda notes.

READ ALSO Power to the people: Will the energy transition secure the Riverina’s economic future?

She recommends that the Mayor writes to Mr Fang “to seek an explanation” that includes:

a) what community consultation he has undertaken in this local government area to determine support for a nuclear reactor to be located here

b) what water source he proposes be used for ongoing nuclear energy generation purposes; and

c) what location he proposes for the generated nuclear waste to be processed and stored.

In response, Mr Fang said that the NOM had missed the point.

“It’s disappointing that instead of understanding where I’m coming from here, she has twisted the words that I’ve said, and has tried to play politics,” said Mr Fang.

“I never said that Wagga should have a nuclear power plant; I said, I’m happy to have one in my backyard. But it’s not a decision for me.”

Wes Fang confirmed he's not advocating for a nuclear reactor in Wagga, but said he'd be "happy to have one" in his backyard.

Wes Fang confirmed he’s not advocating for a nuclear reactor in Wagga, but said he’d be “happy to have one” in his backyard. Photo: General Electric.

According to the official government Hansard transcript from 15 May, Mr Fang was speaking on a motion related to the impact of the HumeLink energy transmission project on the community.

Mr Fang pointed out that the Central-West Orana would receive $128 million in support while HumeLink communities will receive $15.6 million from Transgrid.

In the ensuing debate, Labor MLC Emily Suvaal explained that the Central-West Orana would benefit from being a designated Renewable Energy Zone [REZ] and quipped that perhaps Mr Fang was suggesting “for Wagga Wagga to have a REZ”.

Mr Fang interjected, saying “No. Nuclear for Wagga” and followed it up with “Nuclear power for Australia, in fact. Let’s go!”

As the president called for order, Minister for Agriculture and Regional Australia, Tara Moriarty fired back with a question, asking “Based in Wagga Wagga too?”

“Sure. I’ll have one in my backyard,” Mr Fang said.

READ ALSO Council launches survey on establishing nuclear power generator near Coleambally, Darlington Point or Jerilderie

As the debate concluded, Mr Fang asserted that his motion recognised the desire from HumeLink residents for the powerlines to go underground rather than overhead, and he clarified his nuclear comments.

“Ultimately, let us be honest, if you want to decarbonise the economy, then you go with nuclear power,” he said.

“The government can run all the scare campaigns it wants. The young generation coming through is going to understand that it is the only way to have carbon‑neutral baseload power in this country.”

Speaking to Region ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting, Mr Fang said he was trying to make the point that nuclear technology was not something to be feared.

“It’s not as Councillor McKinnon tries to portray, that I am advocating for a nuclear plant in Wagga Wagga,” he said.

“I am saying that if one was to be built, even in my backyard, I would not have a problem with it because I believe that the technology is mature and effective.

“So I’ll be at council and I’ll answer their questions and I’ll continue to engage by having a mature debate on what is a very, very difficult but necessary conversation.”

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