Nuclear power debate resurrected

Pic: Vales Point was identified as a possible nuclear power plant site in 2018

Member for Swansea, Yasmin Catley, has vowed to fight moves to repeal legislation banning uranium mining in NSW, which she says is the first step towards nuclear power plants in the State, with three Central Coast sites likely contenders.

An Upper House inquiry into the Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Repeal Bill 2019 has recommended repealing the original bill in its entirety.

Although this would make it legal to mine for uranium within NSW boundaries for the first time since 1987, the prohibition on nuclear facilities would remain in place as a result of prohibitions enacted in federal legislation.

But Catley said that Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, had made it clear that he supports the building of new nuclear power stations.

“While there is also federal legislation in this space, it is clear that the Deputy Premier sees the removal of the current ban on uranium mining and nuclear power in NSW as the first step towards that objective,” she said.

“Potential nuclear power station sites were identified at Eraring, Vales Point and Munmorah in 2018, but nuclear is not the answer to the problem of climate change.

“Nuclear is too expensive and too dangerous.

“The future lies in large scale renewable energy projects that bring together wind, solar and other renewable technologies to meet our needs.

“Wind power made reliable with storage, and peaking gas support, costs as low as $52MWh while nuclear energy in nations with established industries costs between $169MWh and $270MWh.

“New nuclear facilities will cost between $195 and $344 per MWh.
“This would see NSW households pay potentially six times as much for electricity.

“Already on the Central Coast we have Vales Point rolling out clean technology like solar.

“The government should be supporting the expansion of this sector and the jobs that come with it, rather than turning regional and coastal communities into nuclear power plant wastelands.”

But MLC Taylor Martin, who chaired the inquiry into repealing the prohibition bill, said bans on uranium mining and nuclear energy reflected the “outdated fears of the 1980s”.

“The safety of nuclear technology has advanced in leaps and bounds since the state prohibition commenced,” Martin said.

“On the balance of evidence gathered for this inquiry, nuclear power in its emerging small scale applications, is a compelling technology where energy policy settings seek to decarbonise emissions while delivering secure, reliable and affordable energy to the NSW grid.

“Despite the share of wind and solar in the NSW electricity generation mix tripling in the past five years, just over seven per cent of the state’s electricity currently comes from these sources.

“It is clear that wind and solar firmed with gas, batteries and pumped hydro would not be an adequate solution to meet the state’s future needs for affordable and reliable electricity following the decommissioning of our ageing coal fired generation assets.

“There is an imperative for legislators and governments to be genuinely technology neutral and not lock out appropriate, low emission alternatives to replace these ageing assets.”

Martin said there were “no compelling justifications” from an environmental or human safety point of view which would warrant the blanket exclusion of nuclear energy from serious policy consideration in NSW.

“The outdated arguments for prohibiting nuclear on the basis of safety are increasingly difficult to defend,” he said.

Media release, Mar 4
Taylor Martin MLC
Media release, Mar 5 and media statement, Mar 11
Member for Shortland,
Yasmin Catley