South Burnett Sustainable Future Network members Michelle Price, Suzanne Mungall, Deb Emery and Helen Schaffer

June 26, 2024

Nationals Leader David Littleproud says host communities are backing nuclear power, but there is a bunch of Kingaroy residents who are not so sure.

They are members of the South Burnett Sustainable Future Network.

Earlier this week, the Network issued a joint statement (see below).

Four members of the group met with the media on Wednesday to explain their concerns.

Deb Emery emphasised she wanted to keep an open mind on nuclear power but thought the Coalition’s plan was “a big white elephant” which was a delaying distraction.

“We don’t have 10 or 15 years for studies. That’s the nature of climate change. Let’s go with the technology that we have now that we know works,” she said.

Helen Schaffer agreed, saying the nuclear proposal was just a distraction: “It’s not dealing with climate change.”

Suzanne Mungall said the network wanted to be a vehicle for a genuine discussion to see if nuclear energy really was a viable option for the South Burnett community.

But she wanted the community to have a conversation “with the facts”, which she says is not happening now.

Suzanne said the chances of a nuclear plant ever going ahead at Tarong were slim: “There is never going to be enough water in our area. The LNP is telling us a massive fib.”

And although the group members were very concerned about the jobs that would be lost with the closure of the Tarong Power Stations and Meandu Mine, they did not believe a nuclear plant would solve that issue.

“We will be importing the people with the technical skills from elsewhere,” Suzanne said. “We don’t have them at the coal mine.”

Suzanne said the South Burnett Sustainable Future Network had genuine questions.

“We are open to hearing their answers,” she said.

“If nuclear is the option, we need proper information about it. What’s the cost? What are they going to do with the waste?”

* * *

The statement issued by the South Burnett Sustainable Future Network:

It is with great concern that we listened to the Federal Opposition’s announcement of their policy to risk our future by relying predominantly on nuclear power. This is a bad policy that will not work for Australia and it is deceitful to suggest this policy is at all intended to benefit the South Burnett.

While many in our community are struggling with power bills, nuclear power is the least cost-effective source of electricity.

With an initial investment of an average of $8.5 billion that it appears is such a bad investment no private investors will touch, this proposal relies entirely on public funds, straight to the deficit for our grandkids to pay off. Ongoing running costs of nuclear power are 50 per cent higher compared to wind and solar with batteries. Can you take a 50 per cent increase to your power bill?

If it was legal to build a nuclear power station in Queensland, the average time to deliver such a project to grid connection is 15 years. With Tarong due to close in approximately 2036, if it was legal to start building a power plant today, it would not be connected to the grid until 2039. Considering nuclear power is currently prevented by both State and Federal laws, and no Queensland party is currently considering changing that law, there will be no nuclear power any time soon.

Mr Littleproud has attempted to capitalise on community concern for the jobs of people currently employed at Tarong. As no nuclear power plant can be delivered to a timeline that will provide employment security, these comments by Mr Littleproud must be called out as cynical. If Mr Littleproud were truly concerned about the job security of South Burnett workers, surely he would focus his energy on attracting viable and realistic business opportunities to our region.

The Opposition has attempted to capitalise on community concern for new high transmission power lines being constructed in our community. This is another cynical move that should be called out. The purpose of the powerlines is to connect a diversity of power sources with the increased demand. Nuclear will not eliminate the need for these powerlines and will in fact rely on them to transmit the high volume of power from our region to the high population base in the south-east.

We, in the South Burnett, are more vulnerable than those in Canberra to the impacts of climate change as we experience the natural disasters, we watch our crops fail, our businesses struggle and our communities hurt. We cannot afford a policy designed to stall investment on renewables and risk further hardship to our community.

The South Burnett, as a power hub, is in prime position to capitalise on the burgeoning renewable energy industry and reap the economic benefits.

We would respectfully request the Opposition stop using us to benefit their political donors but instead focus on supporting our community to take advantage of these economic opportunities.

A political party truly interested in our well being would support us with an adequate regulatory framework to ensure all renewable projects provide maximum benefit and minimal disruption to the community while ensuring that highly vulnerable flora and fauna are protected.

A political party truly interested in our community would support the local development of projects so profits are returned to our community instead of going offshore.

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10 Responses to "Nuclear? ‘We Want The Facts’"

  1. If this group wants to have credibility in the local debate then they should keep their politics out of any future statements.

    I was genuinely interested in hearing what they had to say until they started talking about politics. I would like to know facts and then I can make my own mind up on who I vote for.

  2. An open conversation with open minds is important. Too many have jumped to a position without first learning the facts.

    Comments in this story about not enough water are ill-informed. The principle of water making steam is similar whether it’s coal or nuclear providing the heat source.

    An opportunity to build a nuclear plant at Tarong is a gift for our area we may never see again.

    I have certainly seen many positive attitudes and even excitement about the proposal.

  3. I agree with the comments that nuclear power is a completely undeveloped concept for Australia’s response to the current climate crisis. Let’s get some scientific information about costs, availability of water and how any plans for nuclear could be combined WITH not IN PLACE of existing natural energies of sun and wind.

  4. Three cheers to the ladies of the SB Sustainable Future Network. We do need facts, not ones just plucked out for political convenience.

    Despite what politicians say, nuclear accidents do occur and will continue to occur. Chernobyl was the result of one operator’s human error plus poor design by two engineers. Residents within the 30km exclusion zone are subject to thyroid cancer as are their children. Birth defects are higher and the average age for life is much lower. Dogs live only up to five years. The area will be contaminated for thousands of years.

    It will not bother me, as I am 83, but it would involve my great-grandchildren!

    Is nuclear worth that risk?

  5. The World Nuclear Association, a pro-nuclear body, says nuclear does use more water than coal-fired plants but not significantly more if the coal goes through a washing plant first.

    But also interesting is their statement that “… the surplus (waste) heat which is removed from it needs to be discharged by transfer to the air or to a body of water. This is a major consideration in siting power plants, and in the UK siting study in 2009 for nuclear plants all recommendations were for sites within 2km of abundant water – sea or estuary.”

    Tarong is more than 2km from the coast!

  6. C’mon Malcolm be real. Looking at that list, most of the deaths occurred because of dam failures (the dam wall gave way), not by the actual failure of the hydroelectric generating plant. Some of the dams failed because they were bombed! Remember the Dambusters??? I notice the Kakhovka Dam is also on the list. That was bombed by the Russians during the current Ukraine War. Sure people died when the dam wall burst, but you can’t blame the turbines for that (unless you’re Putin).

  7. Listening to both sides of the story is very important, there’s a lot of hype and polarisation being thrown around, not all of it by our political leaders. If we stay calm and stick to facts, check the facts, only then can the best decisions be reached. Let’s be objective, this is too big an issue to get wrong.

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