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Nuclear energy: Opposition Leader Peter Dutton set to unveil nuclear policy after snap meeting

Dan Jervis-Bardy
The Nightly
Australian Opposition Leader Peter Dutton speaks to the media during a press conference in Sydney,Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi) NO ARCHIVING
Australian Opposition Leader Peter Dutton speaks to the media during a press conference in Sydney,Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi) NO ARCHIVING Credit: BIANCA DE MARCHI/AAPIMAGE

The federal Opposition’s long-awaited nuclear policy will be unveiled as Peter Dutton gears up for an election fight on climate and energy.

The Liberal leader is expected to reveal the plan — including the sites for potential nuclear reactors — after a party room meeting early Wednesday morning.

The West Australian reported on Tuesday that speculation about an imminent announcement was rife inside Coalition ranks after snap meetings were called for the shadow cabinet and the party’s backbench energy and resources committee.

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Mr Dutton has been under growing pressure to reveal his nuclear policy after promising to release details ahead of the May budget.

The Coalition wants to replace retired coal-fired power stations with nuclear reactors, and six to seven sites across the country are expected to be chosen to host them.

Collie in WA is among the sites in contention, along with Gladstone in Queensland, the Latrobe Valley in Victoria, and the Hunter Valley in NSW.

The announcement will inflame the political climate wars, which broke out again after Mr Dutton launched a fresh attack on the Federal Government’s 43 per cent 2030 emissions reduction target.

He revealed the Coalition wouldn’t take a 2030 or 2035 target to the next election, claiming Labor’s path to net zero would bankrupt families and ruin the economy.

Since then, splits inside the Coalition on climate have opened up, with senior Liberals rejecting Nationals leader David Littleproud’s pledge to limit large-scale renewable energy projects.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has for weeks been in campaign mode fighting the Coalition’s nuclear ambitions, guaranteeing it will be a defining federal election issue.

On Tuesday, Mr Dutton hit back again, telling voters to ignore the “weak and visionless prime minister out there trying to scare you”.

He is adamant that nuclear is needed to firm up the grid as coal-fired power stations shut down.

Building the reactors would also avoid the need to construct new transmission lines through farmland, Mr Dutton argues.

“Look at the vision that we’re creating for our country, which will generate industry jobs and economic growth for the next century. That’s the policy that we have on offer, and it stands in stark contrast to increased prices, blackouts, uncertainty,” Mr Dutton said.

The case against nuclear power was strengthened last month by research from the nation’s top science agency showing that building just one plant would cost more than $8.5 billion and take as long as 20 years.

Even if Mr Dutton wins the next election, the Federal Parliament would need to overturn the Howard-era ban on nuclear power before the first plant could be constructed.

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