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The insane amount it could cost to turn Australia nuclear – as new detail in Peter Dutton’s bold plan is revealed

Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek has added her voice to the tirade of criticism against the Opposition’s nuclear energy push, labelling the proposal as ‘completely irrational’ and ‘designed to be a distraction’.

Speaking on Sunday, the environment and water minister criticised the Coalition for its refusal to detail the estimated cost to add nuclear generation to the national electricity market in the biggest overhaul of energy policy in decades.

‘He’s saying to Australians: ‘I don’t trust you. I don’t trust you with the costing we’ve done,’ if he’s got costings,’ Ms Plibersek told Sky News.

‘On every analysis internationally, renewables are cheaper, nuclear is the most extensive.

‘What is it going to do to pay for his power bills if the government is recouping the very expensive cost of building and running those nuclear reactors?’

According to analysis released by the Smart Energy Council using data from the latest GenCost report, Labor’s non-nuclear energy plan is estimated to cost $117bn through to 2050, while the Coalition’s pledge would cost upwards of $600bn. 

Opposition energy spokesman Ted O’Brien has flagged an evolution in the Coalition’s nuclear power policy, revealing that each of the seven sites could host multiple reactors. 

Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek has added her voice to the tirade of criticism against the Opposition's nuclear energy push, labelling the proposal as 'completely irrational' and 'designed to be a distraction'

Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek has added her voice to the tirade of criticism against the Opposition’s nuclear energy push, labelling the proposal as ‘completely irrational’ and ‘designed to be a distraction’ 

But in a major concession, Mr O’Brien said on Sunday the Coalition would not go to the election announcing the estimated generation capacity of its nuclear power plan, leaving this decision to an independent body until after the election.

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‘One of the lessons we learned from overseas, in order to get prices down, you need multi-unit sites,’ Mr O’Brien told the ABC’s Insiders program.

‘Let’s say the small modular reactors … When you talk about a nuclear plant, these are modularised compartments. You can add another 300, add another 300.

‘You’re talking about multi-unit plants.’

An independent nuclear energy coordinating authority would make recommendations on the number and type of reactors per site, Mr O’Brien said, which would then determine the final generation capacity.

‘The independent body would look at each plant, and come up with a recommendation as to what sort of technology should be used,’ he said.

‘From there, it would be exactly what capacity based on that technology.

‘Only from there can you come down to a specific number of gigawatts’.

Last week Coalition unveiled plans to build seven nuclear power plants by 2050 with the first reactor slated to be operational in just over a decade in a move designed to deliver cheaper, zero-emissions and reliable power supply.

The large-scale and small modular generators would be Commonwealth-owned, similar to arrangements governing the Snowy Hydro 2.0 scheme, requiring a multibillion-dollar funding commitment from taxpayers.

The Coalition has proposed to locate the reactors in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia on the sites of former coal fired power stations, adding no more than 10GW to the power grid, meaning renewables will remain the vast majority of the energy mix.

Smart Energy Council chief executive John Grimes said Mr Dutton’s nuclear proposal would deliver ‘at best’ 3.7 per cent of the energy required at the same cost as the government’s current strategy.

Tarong and Callide in Queensland, Liddell and Mount Piper in NSW, Port Augusta in South Australia, Loy Yang in Victoria, and Muja in Western Australia have been flagged as the locations for the stations

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Tarong and Callide in Queensland, Liddell and Mount Piper in NSW, Port Augusta in South Australia, Loy Yang in Victoria, and Muja in Western Australia have been flagged as the locations for the stations

‘In reality, current cost overruns happening right now in the UK could mean a $600 billion bill to Australian taxpayers, whilst delivering a small proportion of the energy that is actually required,’ he said.

Nuclear had no place in a country with cheap, reliable energy powered by the sun and wind and backed up by renewable energy storage, Mr Grimes said.

‘The most optimistic assessment of Peter Dutton’s nuclear proposal indicates it is a pale shadow of the reliable renewables plan outlined and costed by the Australian Energy Market Operator,’ he said.

The council has called on the opposition to release its analysis of the costings and generation capacity from the seven proposed nuclear reactor sites. 

‘They need to explain how their forecasts contradict the experts at the CSIRO and AEMO,’ Mr Grimes said.

‘It is extraordinary that the details are being hidden from the Australian public.’ 

Separate analysis released by CSIRO put the cost of building a large-scale nuclear reactor at $8.6bn, bringing the total cost to approximately $60bn, however nuclear projects are often subject to hefty delays and soaring cost overruns.

Smart Energy Council chief executive John Grimes said Mr Dutton's nuclear proposal would deliver 'at best' 3.7 per cent of the energy required at the same cost as the government's current strategy

Smart Energy Council chief executive John Grimes said Mr Dutton’s nuclear proposal would deliver ‘at best’ 3.7 per cent of the energy required at the same cost as the government’s current strategy

Separate analysis released by CSIRO put the cost of building a large-scale nuclear reactor at $8.6bn, bringing the total cost to approximately $60bn, however nuclear projects are often subject to hefty delays and soaring cost overruns (stock image)

Separate analysis released by CSIRO put the cost of building a large-scale nuclear reactor at $8.6bn, bringing the total cost to approximately $60bn, however nuclear projects are often subject to hefty delays and soaring cost overruns (stock image)

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Asked why Australia had eschewed nuclear power when many other advanced economies had adopted the technology, Ms Plibersek pointed to Australia’s comparative advantage in renewable power generation.

‘We’ve got the room, we’ve got the resources, we’ve got the critical minerals we need, battery manufacturing, we’re investing in green hydrogen,’ Ms Plibersek said.

‘We can be a renewable energy superpower and instead Peter Dutton wants to slam the brakes on, instead of leading the world with renewable energy investment.

‘He wants to fast track nuclear, and put us on the slow lane when it comes to renewables. It’s just mad.’

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