Is nuclear power an energy solution that could come to the South Coast?

A nuclear power plant. Picture: Stock image
A nuclear power plant. Picture: Stock image

Nuclear power has again become part of the national conversation and South East NSW is still being touted as a potential location to install a plant.

Earlier this year Nuclear for Climate Australia said NSW could host 10 nuclear power plants and reiterated how the South Coast was a place of interest as a construction site.

Under its proposal it states the South Coast has potential if included with other power plants that could be built at East Gippsland, the Snowy Mountains or Jervis Bay.

While it states the coast has many sites with "good access to once through sea water cooling" - running a large amount of water through a power plant's condensers then discharging it into a waterway with only a small amount of evaporation - an extensive grid upgrade would be required for a 2.2GW plant.

The group also states the Snowy Mountains has the capacity for two 1.1GW power stations using existing infrastructure.

Large reservoirs in the region meant there were multiple options for cooling, but moderate water resource construction was required.

John Barilaro.

John Barilaro.

While federal and state laws do not allow the development of a nuclear power industry, several MPs want this changed according the Sydney Morning Herald, and at a recent conference the NSW Nationals passed a motion stating the party's support for nuclear energy in Australia.

Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro John Barilaro has been vocal about the need for a conversation around the technology for years, last month saying it was "guaranteed baseload energy with zero emissions, no fossil fuels and probably the cheapest cost to the average Australian household".

He said last year he attended a global seminar in the US on the next generation of nuclear energy systems called small modular reactors (SMRs), which are are smaller in size than conventional reactors and can be placed in remote areas without the need to feed directly to the grid.

"Given their size and efficiency, their waste is minimal (new advancements in technology continues to address the waste issue) and compared to reactors of bygone eras, they are becoming very affordable," he said.

But Electrical Trades Union national secretary Allen Hicks said there were significant safety risks associated with nuclear power and the cost to construct, maintain and dispose of nuclear waste far outweighed any perceived benefits.

"If Barilaro was being honest, he would tell people that nuclear is not a viable option without massive taxpayer subsidies which would see Australians' good money thrown after bad," he said.

"The best option for cheap, clean and safe energy for Australian workers and consumers is for unions, industry and government to work together on pursuing a just transition towards renewable energy."