Nuclear debate: Burrinjuck Dam a potential site

Regions of interest for nuclear power plants in NSW. Photo: Nuclear for Climate Australia

Regions of interest for nuclear power plants in NSW. Photo: Nuclear for Climate Australia

Nuclear reactors must be in the mix if Australia is to curb its carbon emissions, says a civil engineer and former candidate for the seat of Goulburn.

Rob Parker, who coordinates Nuclear for Climate Australia (NCA), argued politicians should not shy away from nuclear energy.

In southern NSW, NCA has identified Marulan, Burrinjuck and the Shoalhaven as three of 18 potential sites for nuclear reactors, envisaged to be constructed by 2040 and provide 140.9 terawatts of energy annually.

Mr Parker ran unsuccessfully as a Labor candidate for Goulburn in 2007 and as an independent in 2011. But he says his views are not political, other than to shatter notions.

Rob Parker pictured in 2011 when he ran for the State seat of Goulburn.

Rob Parker pictured in 2011 when he ran for the State seat of Goulburn.

He was speaking about the latest tit-for-tat between shadow State energy spokesman Adam Searle and Goulburn MP Pru Goward.

Mr Searle, on Thursday September 28, said Deputy Premier John Barilaro should “come clean” about his social media post on Thursday.

“We could have them [small nuclear reactors] operating here in a decade…,” it stated.

Mr Searle said it was the second time Mr Barilaro had raised the possibility of nuclear energy in the state, the first time being in May 2017.

“He should be clear on where he thinks the nuclear reactors should be. A pro-nuclear power group is on the record suggesting reactors should be in the Goulburn electorate – does Mr Barilaro agree?

Mr Searle said the technology was a “silly idea” given there were no apparent solutions for dumping nuclear waste and required a “huge amount” of water.

Ms Goward has dismissed the comments as “fantasy politics” and said there were no plans for nuclear reactors in the Goulburn electorate.

“There’s no federal plan and we don’t have the water needed to cool such a plant. That’s why they’re generally on coastal sites,” she said.

I do not believe the community nor this government would support the use of Burrinjuck Dam as part of a nuclear facility.

Goulburn MP Pru Goward

Mr Parker meantime said the political debate was framed by “hand wringing” on one side and “outright denial” on the other.  

“Our energy policies are framed by climate change...If that’s not the case we’d be out there building new coal-fired power stations,” he said.​

Burrinjuck Dam cited for nuclear reactor

Mr Parker argued that nuclear energy needed to be 80 per cent of the mix due to climate change. He said the best locations were those near water, rail and the transmission grid.

“Yass has a high viability because of the dam. It also has a good grid connection and good geology,” he said.

NCA proposes that cooling in Burrinjuck would be a hybrid wet-dry process, with water being drawn from Burrinjuck Dam to a storage reservoir at the power station.

However, Ms Goward said “those of us who live here would recall the last serious drought, when the levels of the Burrinjuck Dam were dangerously low”.

“I do not believe the community nor this government would support the use of Burrinjuck Dam as part of a nuclear facility,” she said.

Mr Parker believed Mr Barilaro was raising the possibility of smaller modular reactors being developed across more sites, which did not involve significantly opening up the grid or a large water supply.

He also maintained that nuclear was becoming more price competitive due to the combined effects of electricity generation at $105/MWh in 2018 and the likelihood of increased network costs. Premier Gladys Berejiklian has ruled out nuclear reactors.

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