ETU slams mining union’s Latrobe Valley nuclear plan

nuclear (ETU)
Markus Distelrath/Pixabay, CC BY

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has slammed a proposal to replace ageing coal-fired power stations in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley with small nuclear reactors, labelling the move as dangerous and short-sighted.

Victorian branch secretary of the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division, Geoff Dyke, said nuclear power would provide “secure, reliable, low-cost power”, and said turning Latrobe Valley into a nuclear region would help stem the 2,600 job losses from the closure of Hazelwood and Yallourn.

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However, the ETU said nuclear energy was expensive, hazardous and would take too long to construct to provide a meaningful transition for workers.

“Plans for nuclear power in Australia are a fallacy. They are dangerous, short-sighted and only do a disservice to workers who are currently employed in the mining and energy sector,” ETU National acting secretary Michael Wright said.

“Nuclear power stations take literal decades to come online but already can’t compete with renewables and battery storage. With coal-fired power stations closing ahead of schedule, we shouldn’t be investing in uneconomic and unproven technology whose use case is dead on arrival. 

“There has clearly been little thought given to the workers who will have to dig up radioactive material to fuel nuclear power plants. And if we’ve learnt anything from the situation in Ukraine over the past few weeks it’s that nuclear power is never risk-free.
“Further, the technology relied upon for the mining union’s plan, small modular nuclear reactors, does not yet exist at a commercial scale. Currently there is one prototype anywhere in the world.

“The technology for renewable energy is already available, it is cheap to produce, and wind and solar can come online at a fraction of the time it would take nuclear reactors to produce electricity.

“What our communities and our nation needs is a real plan for their future, not another pipe-dream. Renewable energy has the potential to not only support jobs and drive investment across the regional economy for decades, but also spur a green manufacturing jobs boom.”

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The CFMEU’s pro-nuclear stance is shared by the Australian Workers’ Union but federal Labor is opposed to lifting the prohibition on the energy source, The Australian reported.

Outgoing Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon and Victorian senator Raff Ciccone are reportedly among a small number of Labor MPs who believe the ban on nuclear energy should be reconsidered.

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