The Australia Institute, an Australian research organisation that some consider to be aligned to the political left, has released its analysis of ideal locations for a nuclear power plant in Australia.
According to the institute, they consulted with a number of nuclear energy experts and determined the best possible sites for a nuclear power reactor in Australia. These sites include the popular holiday destinations of Port Stephens in New South Wales and Westernport Bay in Victoria.
The institute identified sites based on the needs of nuclear power generators. They said the most important criteria is for the site to be on the coast so it has access to large volumes of water used by the reactor for cooling. The institute found inland locations are not suitable as "Australia’s inland water supplies are unreliable and are already over-committed."
The institute also reports that Port Stephens and Westernport Bay meet other desirable criteria, being near major electricity transmission lines and have good rail and port access for imported fuel rods.
The institute said that unused fuel rods would need to be imported, but "spent fuel will need to be stored in perpetuity". According to the institute, in Europe nuclear waste is often stored on the power plant's site.
Dr Clive Hamilton, executive director of the Australia Institute said that the government is yet to give an indication on potential nuclear power sites and there is only a small number of sites which would be suitable for a power generation reactor. “It is not clear whether the Government has yet considered where the proposed nuclear power plants will be located, but there are only a limited number of suitable sites. Other likely sites include the Central Coast and the area south of Wollongong in NSW, the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, and Port Phillip Bay and Portland in Victoria”.
Mr Hamilton said that the institute had decided to investigate possible locations as there is little point having a nuclear debate where no possible sites are identified. “The Prime Minister has said he wants a national debate about nuclear power, but there is little point in debating it in the abstract”.
Mayor of Port Stephens, Craig Baumann is not impressed by the Australia Institute's findings. He said he would be opposed to any nuclear power facility being built in Port Stephens.
"I just don't like the idea of any power station, something like Vailes Point being stuck on the shores of Port Stephens,"
"Obviously the power station should be close to transport, obviously large volumes of water and the grid that it's meant to service" Mr Baumann said.
Mr Baumann did however suggest a possible location for a power plant. "I'd suggest that they move the ships out of Garden Island and stick it right in the middle of Sydney."
If the government decided on a location in Victoria for a nuclear power plant there would be some legal implications, requiring the federal government to overturn state law (which is difficult). Victoria enacted the Nuclear Activities (Prohibitions) Act in 1983 which states it is to "protect the health, welfare and safety of the people of Victoria and to limit deterioration of the environment in which they dwell by prohibiting the establishment of nuclear activities".
Under the act, nuclear power generation is specified as a prohibited activity.