NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has not ruled out one day having nuclear reactors in his home electorate of Monaro, near the ACT.
Mr Barilaro has garnered attention this week after advocating for nuclear energy to be considered in NSW in a speech to an energy policy forum in Sydney on Wednesday.
But when questioned whether he would ever consider bringing nuclear reactors to Monaro Mr Barilaro refused to rule anything in or out.
“This is not about where would I stick a nuclear reactor,” he said.
“The conversation now is not about where you would locate it but what does the technology look like.
“This is not a decision for John Barilaro this is a decision for the public.”
Mr Barilaro, who was acting premier this week while NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian was in India, recently returned from a trip to the United States where he visited the Advanced Reactor Summit in Atlanta, Georgia.
He said he wanted to “debunk some of the myths” tied to nuclear and move on from the fears after events like Chernobyl and Fukushima.
“This isn’t Homer Simpson driving the power plant,” he said.
Mr Barilaro said he envisaged a future where small modular reactors were set up in a series and could be air, gas or sand cooled rather than the familiar technology of large reactors situated on the coastline for easy access to water.
He said recycling of radioactive material had improved and waste products would remain radioactive for around 300 years rather than hundreds of thousands of years.
However Mr Barilaro has been criticised by Labor candidate for Monaro Bryce Wilson and the Nature Conservation Council for his reluctance to provide details about his plan to bring nuclear power to the state.
“John can’t stand there and say he wants to provide relief to household energy bills without giving us any figures,” Mr Wilson said.
“This isn’t primary school debating, this is a conversation for grown ups.
“How can we have a conversation about nuclear power without knowing where reactors would go, how much it would cost and what would happen to the waste?
Mr Wilson added he would not endorse bringing nuclear reactors to any part of the region.
Mr Barilaro said Labor were playing politics and the Australian people were “more mature” and could have a conversation about the issue.
The federal government has a ban on nuclear power in Australia and federal member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly said he would not support nuclear power in the region.
“It is not necessary to build nuclear power stations in Australia, as we have an abundance of natural renewable resources that can be utilised to create energy,” Dr Kelly said.
“For our region, there is a real opportunity in becoming a hub for research and development in renewable energy and the scope for manufacturing renewable energy components.”
Mr Barilaro said he wanted to see more investment in renewable energy, particularly in Monaro, but said it would not be possible to do so without ensuring a greater baseload of energy, which nuclear power could provide.
He said nuclear was a cleaner option than coal or gas to achieve the necessary baseload.
In an interview with Sky News on Thursday Mr Barilaro said he supported a potential government acquisition of the coal-powered Liddell Power Station so it did not come offline in 2022.
ACT minister for climate change and sustainability Shane Rattenbury ruled out nuclear power as an option for the territory.
“Both Greens and Labor national platforms specifically preclude the construction of nuclear power plants in Australia,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“The ACT is committed to 100 per cent renewable electricity, and nuclear power does not form part of this commitment.”