‘Should Have Had It 25 Years Ago’: Gladstone Residents Back Nuclear to Cut Power Bills, Save Animals

Local people and politicians from the towns where nuclear plants have been proposed have explained their cases for and against the planned move.
‘Should Have Had It 25 Years Ago’: Gladstone Residents Back Nuclear to Cut Power Bills, Save Animals
Aerial view of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant which sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean at Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., on March 17, 2011. (Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)
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Communities have responded to the federal opposition’s plan to build seven nuclear plants at coal power stations across the nation.

The plan will kick off if Peter Dutton is elected prime minister, and includes nuclear plants in the Gippsland region of Victoria, Callide and Tarong in Queensland, Port Augusta in South Australia, Collie in Western Australia, and Mount Piper and Liddell in New South Wales.

According to the Liberal-National Coalition’s proposal, some reactors could be up and running by 2035.

One Gladstone resident David West, told The Epoch Times he fully supported nuclear power in the Callide area, one and a half hours from the central Queensland town.

Mr. West has a personal interest in nuclear power, something his father had advocated for while working in government.

“We should have had nuclear power about 25 years ago,” he said.

Mr. West said annual power bills for businesses in the region had skyrocketed from $20,000 (US$29,000) to more than a quarter of a million dollars.

Power bills with nuclear energy are expected to reduce by around 75 percent.

“Even if power bills dropped by 50 percent, our manufacturing base could become more profitable and we'd be able to manufacture a lot more here,” he said.

Mr. West opposes what he sees as misinformation and negative campaigning from activists who push the line that nuclear energy could result in physical harm.

He said older nuclear reactors took weeks to shut off, citing the example of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, while modern ones could be shut down in minutes.

“Given that we have the most geographically stable land on the planet, it’s just perfect,” Mr. West said.

The Australian Greens say on their website that they believe there is “no effective way” to address a nuclear disaster, which is why nuclear should be completely phased out of use.

“Nuclear weapons, nuclear accidents or attacks on reactors all pose unacceptable risks of catastrophic consequences for humans and the environment,” the party said.

Another Gladstone local, Anthony Sophios, said he supported nuclear power because he had concerns about the loss of habitat from building solar panel farms, wind turbines, and new transmission infrastructure.

Mr. Sophios told The Epoch Times that the Clarke Creek wind farm in central Queensland had been heavily criticised by Rainforest Reserves Australia.

The group has lodged a petition to call for a moratorium on renewable energy developments because of deforestation concerns.

Some environmental groups are calling on the government to halt renewables amid concerns for wildlife. (Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
Some environmental groups are calling on the government to halt renewables amid concerns for wildlife. (Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

The environmental group issued a statement on June 19 in response to the approval of the Gawara Baya/Upper Burdekin wind farm in North Queensland, labelling it a “catastrophic mistake.”

“It will likely have far reaching implications for the population of koalas onsite and may impact the long-term survival of wild-living koalas in Australia,” they said in a statement.

Politicians Voice Their Perspectives

In response to the opposition leader’s announcement, Gladstone Regional Council Councillor Kahn Goodluck was quick to take to social media to voice his thoughts.

“There is talk of Gladstone being chosen as a place for a nuclear power plant,” he wrote on social media.

“I’m calling it out and saying NO! Gladstone’s energy future doesn’t have to be radioactive!

“Our community is the industrial powerhouse of the nation.”

Mr. Goodluck said the region had been progressing with the switch to renewables.

“We don’t need or want expensive, radioactive, nuclear energy here,” he said.

However, federal Member for Callide Colin Boyce said the Callide power station would provide a lifeline for the nearby township of Biloela, while helping to meet Australia’s plan for net zero emissions by 2050.

“Without transitioning to nuclear, the Callide Power Station is set to close in the future and some 250 jobs will leave that economy, that means less children at the school,” he said in a statement provided to The Epoch Times.

“It means less groceries are sold at the store. It means less rate base for the local government authority.”

Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt, whose electorate sits besides Gladstone as well as the Flynn electorate, has been a long-time advocate for nuclear and said renewables would only drive up prices.

“Intermittent wind and solar is already costing Australian taxpayers billions of dollars in renewable energy certificates and the Albanese government has committed another $40 billion to its green fantasy,” he told The Epoch Times.

“That doesn’t include the cost of transmission lines and other associated infrastructure needed.

“Australia will have a nuclear industry with the AUKUS agreement so why wouldn’t we use the same technology that goes in a submarine to provide reliable and affordable energy to Australians?”

In Victoria, the Latrobe City Council said it recognised the importance of diverse energy sources, but said the community would need to be consulted on all relevant factors.

As more operating coal-fired power plants get terminated—including Mount Piper Station, which is set to close in 2040—nuclear may serve as an extra option for existing workers.

There is a skills overlap with existing workers in coal-fired power stations, who would be able to transition to working in nuclear facilities without the need for extensive retraining.

A recent report by the U.S. Office of Nuclear Energy (pdf) found this transition increased employment opportunities, created higher paying jobs, and boosted local economic activity.
Crystal-Rose Jones is a reporter based in Australia. She previously worked at News Corp for 16 years as a senior journalist and editor.
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