Deputy Premier John Barilaro  has called for a discussion on nuclear power. A nuclear power plant in France.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro has called for a discussion on nuclear power. A nuclear power plant in France.

'We need to have a discussion' about nuclear energy: MP

THE debate on a nuclear power industry in NSW has once again reared its head.

NSW Labor Opposition has called on the Premier to intervene and put an end to the investigation by her Deputy, National Party Leader John Barilaro, into the potential establishment of a nuclear power industry in NSW.

In his speech to the Small Modular Reactor Summit in Atalanta this week Mr Barilaro said: "We need to have the discussion (about nuclear energy) and we need to have it now."

He added the discussion will take place over a "5-10 year period", before any nuclear energy options could even be introduced in Australia. 

A spokesperson for Mr Barilaro said he met with some companies in the US including NuScale and U-Battery, who are developing Gen IV reactors which will possibly be available mid 2020's, as well as the US Department of Energy to get an insight in relation to the Governments approach to new nuclear technology. 

They said "the meetings were an opportunity to learn and gain knowledge about the sector". 

The Nuclear for Climate Australia website identifies 18 possible sites for nuclear power plants in NSW - including a 250km stretch of coast from Port Macquarie to north of Grafton.

The plan envisages the 18 reactors being constructed in NSW by 2040.

Last year NSW Labor leader Luke Foley accepted Mr Barilaro's invitation to debate nuclear power and suggested Lismore host the forum.

In a letter addressed to the Premier dated June 1 2017, Mr Foley described nuclear power as "both risky and irresponsible" and said: "I accept your call for a debate and propose that we hold a public debate in Lismore to discuss the issues at stake.

"Lismore would be an appropriate location for such a debate as it is one of the most environmentally conscious communities in NSW."

But when asked if Mr Barilaro was considering the offer his spokesperson said Mr Foley was "playing politics with the issue and is completely ignorant to the issues and clueless about the technology".

"Mr Barilaro has always welcomed and encouraged discussion on the opportunity for NSW to consider the prospects, the technological advancements and associated benefits of nuclear energy.

"But any discussion should be done experts in the field...Mr Foley thinks of nuclear reactors as those seen in a Simpsons episode. 

"New Gen IV technology is promising reactors that no longer are water cooled, nor need to be located anywhere near the coast," they said.

More recently, Shadow Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy, Adam Searle MLC and Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Mick Veitch MLC, made a two day visit to the North Coast to meet with primary producers and explore potential solutions to the energy crisis.

Mr Searle said nuclear reactors would tarnish NSW's clean and green image, and threaten the reputation and emerging markets of many north coast primary industries.

"Mr Barilaro's nuclear thought bubbles were a distraction from real long term energy solutions that provide the cheapest and most sustainable forms of electricity for the community and business - which is renewable energy," he said.

"The Premier has let this debate run for too long and now needs to rule out herself any proposal to build nuclear power plants here in NSW."

He also called for the Deputy Premier to "come up to the North Coast and explain why the National Party believes nuclear reactors are the best option".

Mr Veitch said: "North Coast primary producers pride themselves on the quality of their goods and their clean and green reputation."

"The National Party Leader's obsession with building nuclear reactors would jeopardise this hard fought for advantage for local producers on the North Coast," he said.

But spokesperson for Mr Barilaro said "as a leader (he is) simply starting the conversation".

"It presents the potential for reliable, zero emissions power for residents and businesses across the state."

"Up until now there hasn't been a debate at all, which means many people have no idea about the changes in technology the nuclear industry has seen."



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