Politics Opinion

If you don't know, vote 'No' to Dutton's nuclear plan

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

The Coalition is still vague on its nuclear energy plan, which would introduce an environmental hazard into Australia and defy common sense, writes Craig Hill.

OPPOSITION LEADER Peter Dutton still refuses to release any details about how he will introduce nuclear energy into Australia. Therefore let’s look at some details of why it won't work.

The first clue should be that there are no private investors who have expressed an interest in building a nuclear power plant.

All the energy companies in Australia have rejected nuclear energy as not being feasible and have invested billions of dollars in transitioning to renewables.

Secondly, all nuclear reactors take a long time to build. We wouldn't be able to have one online until 2040 at the earliest.

You can't just build them anywhere. Dutton's plan to build them on the sites of existing coal-fired power plants is ill-informed and reckless.

Existing plants are built near coal mines with underground tunnels prone to subsidence. The soil is also contaminated which has caused changes in the silt layer, increasing the chance of subsidence. The last thing we want is nuclear power plants sinking into the ground.

Nuclear power plants also need to be built near large freshwater supplies. The water supplies that exist near coal-fired plants are not large enough and are also contaminated.

The ideal place to build nuclear plants would be near large existing dams that supply water for our major cities. I don't think anybody would be agreeable to the possibility of a nuclear power plant contaminating the water supply.

Also, take into account that nuclear power plants were first built in the USA in 1955. Since then, 255 plants have been built and today, only 60 continue to operate commercially, with the last one going online in 2018. There are no new plants under construction in the USA.

Of the 60 that are operating commercially, only 30 are operating at a profit. After 70 years of nuclear power plant construction, nuclear energy only provides 18.6 per cent of America's electricity supply.

Compare this to renewable energy which first came online in the USA in 2008. Today, renewable energy is responsible for 21.4 per cent of electricity production in the United States.

Nuclear is on the way out in America and renewables are replacing it. Even the Americans have realised that nuclear energy production is far more expensive than renewables.

The CSIRO has investigated this carefully and has produced a detailed report saying that nuclear energy is not feasible. So, too, has Australia’s former chief scientist, Alan Finkel.

The L-NP has rejected both these reports and attacked the credibility of the scientists who prepared them, without offering any details themselves that counter the two reports.

Dutton keeps stating that he will release details in "two weeks". He has been saying this for the last 12 months. It is clear that he has no details and no plan.

We have many details as to why nuclear is not feasible and will not help us to reach our emissions reductions target. There is no information to support Dutton's claims that it is the only solution.

Dutton has made this an election issue. As Dutton himself has said: “If you don't know, vote no.”

Craig Hill is a Brisbane-based journalist and education consultant and a keen observer of Australian and Chinese politics.

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