Nuclear & Australian local government: who is for?


What do our grassroots leaders think of nuclear?

As power shortages loom, the level of government typically most concerned with tariffs, waste and roads has raised the specter of nuclear power nationally.

A motion calling on the federal government to remove restrictions on the advancement of nuclear power in Australia was recently defeated by a narrow majority at the National General Assembly in Canberra.

But the heated debate included a claim from an adviser who wouldn’t mind it being in his own backyard.

Delegates from Australia’s 537 councils took part in the June 19-22 conference, billed by its organisers, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), as “Australia’s largest and most influential local government conference”.

Motion number 52, put forward by the Gunnedah Shire Council in north-west New South Wales, called on the federal government to “remove restrictions preventing the development of nuclear energy as a viable option in the baseload power generation after coal decommissioning. powered by power stations across Australia.

Gunnedah Mayor Jamie Chaffey told delegates that the dismantling of power stations coincided with the boom in renewable energy.

Read more: Energy crisis: Australia’s top experts explain how to get out of it

“These renewables are unable to provide reliable baseload power 24 hours a day, seven days a week, thereby jeopardizing our social and economic well-being due to the potential blackout of domestic supply. that we see pretty regularly,” Chaffey said.

“Australia has an abundance of uranium as a source of fuel. Nuclear power generation has grown exponentially since its inception and is now considered safe and reliable with countries like Germany and France in head.

“It is time for the Australian government to allow an informed and mature debate on this subject.

“Furthermore, the federal government must remove legislative restrictions so that investment proposals and opportunities can be explored on our shores.”

The plea drew an emotional response from Councilor Mark Drury of Inner West, Sydney, who cited the 2021-2022 CSIRO GenCost report.

“Let’s not go back on that, delegates,” Drury said.

“Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the last 10 years. Let’s not sing the Mineral Council song sheet. Let’s go on.

“Interestingly, the restriction that Gunnedah wants to remove is from 1999 [Prime Minister John] Howard prohibits ministers from considering nuclear power. Since 1999, no Liberal prime minister has changed that. I know Albo [Prime Minister Anthony Albanese] won’t.

“Why? Because nuclear is expensive. It’s really, really expensive.”

Gladstone Mayor Matt Burnett said even people who support nuclear power have told him they don’t want it in their own backyards.

He cited the 2018 CSIRO GenCost report which indicated that by 2050, nuclear energy would cost $16,000 per kilowatt to produce, while solar energy would cost $600 per kilowatt.

“The same report identified that it would take 9.4 years before we would see a nuclear power plant in this country,” Burnett said. “In context, in the Gladstone area, with our beautiful deep water port and industrial port, the Gladstone Port Corporation estimates that over 2,500 wind turbines will come to Gladstone Port over the next 10 years.”

Read more: Nuclear in Australia: is it a good idea?

Councilor Thomas Weyrich, of the Murray River Council in South Riverina, NSW, accused speakers against the motion of “scaring”.

Thomas said electricity prices in the United States were “five to eight times cheaper” than in Australia.

“You can put it in my garden,” he said.

“Chernobyl and Fukushima – there are reasons these things happened, and it was incompetence on every level.

“Windmills on top of hills won’t do it. The sun does not shine and the wind does not blow every day of the year.

“It’s the only way forward.”

ALGA President Linda Scott, who chaired the session of the National General Assembly, described the issue as “emotional and passionate” before calling a vote.

The motion was defeated by 109 votes to 93.

The construction and operation of nuclear power plants was banned in Australia in 1998.

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