[Updated Friday, 6.40pm]
The NSW Nationals have ruled out plans for building a nuclear power station on the north coast in the face of mounting pressure to do so ‘once and for all’.
Labor candidate for the seat of Ballina, Asren Pugh, made the call in the wake of the recent attendance at a US nuclear industry conference by NSW Nationals leader and Deputy Premier, John Barilaro.
But Mr Barilaro’s spokesman told Echonetdaily there were ‘absolutely’ no plans for such plants on the north coast nor nuclear energy ‘anywhere in NSW’.
However, the spokesman said Mr Barilaro’s views ‘are not representative of the party’s position or the NSW governments’.
‘Nuclear energy is banned under federal law,’ the spokesman said.
On Tuesday during a radio interview, Mr Barilaro said that premier Berejiklian was “open minded” to nuclear power in NSW.
But the deputy premier’s spokesman said the Nationals did not support the idea of nuclear power in NSW, and that Mr Barilaro was ‘expressing his personal views, in the interests of sparking a conversation about the prospects and environmental benefits of nuclear energy’.
Mr Pugh said Mr Barilaro not only participated in the US conference but was a key speaker, billed as one of the ‘Biggest Names in Nuclear’.
He said that since returning to Australia from the International SMR and Advanced Reactor Summi, in Atlanta, Mr Barilaro ‘has been spruiking nuclear power right across NSW, claiming that it could be a reality within 10 years’.
‘When the Nationals leader started this madness, most people thought it was just an April Fools joke, but this is now getting serious,’ Mr Pugh said.
‘There are no circumstances in which our community on the North Coast want nuclear power here.
‘Nuclear power is unsafe, dangerous and leaves a legacy of toxic waste to our children and our children’s children.
‘Our community doesn’t want a discussion about nuclear power on the North Coast, or anywhere in NSW. I am calling on the Nationals MPs from across the North Coast to stand up for our community and say no.
‘I am asking for a clear commitment to a nuclear free North Coast,’ Mr Pugh said.
Mr Barilaro’s spokesman said the deputy premier’s position on nuclear energy ‘is his own. It is not the position of the Nationals or the NSW Government.
‘Mr Barilaro is simply keen to have a conversation about the technological advancements made in the nuclear energy sector.
‘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.
‘The technology of mobile phones, motor vehicles or televisions has changed dramatically in the last twenty years. So too has nuclear technology. Yet many people continue to think of nuclear technology similar to that seen in a Simpsons episode.
‘Mr Barilaro has spent time learning more about new Gen IV Small Modular Reactors which present a very different size and style of operation to nuclear power stations of the past.
‘New Gen IV technology is promising reactors that no longer are water cooled, nor need to be located anywhere near the coast.
‘They present the potential for reliable, zero emissions power for residents and businesses across the state.