2 November 2022

POLL: Nuclear energy for Riverina? What's your say?

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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The Liberal Democrats NSW held the Going Nuclear – Keeping the lights on and “saving the planet” event recently at The Riverine Club, with Campbell Newman speaking about the benefits of nuclear energy. Photo: iStock/Joe Gough.

Former Queensland premier Campbell Newman was in Wagga to advocate for nuclear energy for the region and provide support to the Liberal Democrats NSW.

Mr Newman was guest speaker at the Liberal Democrats’ Going Nuclear – Keeping the lights on and “saving the planet” event recently at The Riverine Club.

He said Australia as a nation had some big decisions to make in the next few years as to how we supply energy in a world that’s going towards net zero.

“[Liberal Democrats] we’re saying nuclear energy should be part of the net zero solution,” Mr Newman said.

“We have decided to head in the net zero direction, and we must do it in a way that maintains our standard of living, provides reliable, affordable energy for our families and businesses, and ensures that our industries can be competitive.

Should we consider nuclear energy in the Riverina?

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“[Nuclear energy] is low carbon for those that believe that’s important … for the same cost of electricity today, Australia can exceed its Paris commitments and reach an electricity network with an emissions intensity on par with the likes of Ontario in Canada, Sweden and France, which all have sub-100g CO2-e/kWh emissions intensities.”

Mr Newman said there were ”many climate sceptics in the Lib Dems”, and even though he was a climate sceptic, his scepticism was not pertinent to the matter at hand.

“I’m a big supporter of renewables. I have solar panels and a Tesla battery at home and am generally self-sufficient from the grid,” he said.

“We’ve got to have some baseload power as well, and nuclear is what we’re putting forward.”

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Mr Newman said energy prices were expected to rise by 35 per cent “because we’re introducing renewables”.

“And, of course, the old coal-fired power stations are starting to fall apart and decommission,” he said.

“We need to roll out solar, wind, rebuild the way we deliver electricity, and we can do it more efficiently if we have nuclear embedded as part of the mix.”

Mr Newman said people must keep in mind the move to electric vehicles will require a huge increase in generation and support the grid infrastructure.

Event organiser Colin Taggart said the presentation had 40 attendees, followed by a lively Q&A session about nuclear power from supporters and opponents.

Man addressing audience

Campbell Newman speaking in Wagga about nuclear energy. Photo: Supplied,

“Everyone left informed about the options,” Mr Taggart said.

Wagga Wagga Deputy Mayor Jenny McKinnon said nuclear energy for the city was a “ridiculous idea”.

“The South Australian government had a royal commission into the viability of nuclear power in the state when it was a conservative government,” she said.

“[SA] found out it was wildly unaffordable and an expensive idea to achieve.

“Nobody wants the spent fuel rods in their backyard and stored anywhere near them. So trying to find an electorate which would find it acceptable to have a nuclear storage facility is extremely difficult.”

Ms McKinnon added that transporting and storing nuclear waste were difficult.

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“The South Australian royal commission found very clearly that it was not a viable option and that it should not be considered, and for all the same reasons, I agree.

“It’s fantastic [nuclear energy is] emissions-free, but only if it did not come with all the costs and risks.

“We’ve had Chernobyl, Fukushima, Three Mile Island … all these have been in different countries.

“It’s not like the lack of safety or the accidents or anything associated with any kind of particular regime … various sorts of accidents have happened in places where there is nuclear energy.”

Ms McKinnon said nuclear energy was not safe and trustworthy like renewable sources, and we should use alternatives to achieve net zero emissions.

She said she found it interesting that when conservative party politicians were in power, “they don’t want to say anything about nuclear energy”.

“But when they’re not in power, they want everyone considering nuclear power.”

Nuclear power is banned in Australia and power stations can’t be built anywhere in the country. The bans were introduced due to environmental risks and health concerns.

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