Port Augusta’s mayor says the community is suffering from “announcement fatigue”, following the federal opposition’s proposal to build a nuclear plant in the regional South Australian city.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton proposed seven sites for the project in his announcement on Wednesday, with one being the former coal power station at Port Augusta, about 300 kilometres north of Adelaide.

Mayor Linley Shine said the community had become sceptical of these kind of proposals.

“The community has experienced announcement fatigue and is rightfully questioning whether this nuclear power plant proposal will become a reality or just another potential project announcement,” she said.

“Despite multiple project announcements for the area following the closure of the former power stations, only a few wind and solar projects have come to fruition.”

Linley Shine says the regional city is experiencing “announcement fatigue”.(Supplied: Port Augusta Council)

Cr Shine said, if a nuclear power plant was built there, she wanted to see the state government change its laws to help communities make more money from international energy companies operating in their regions.

She said communities in other states of Australia stood to benefit from nuclear power plants more than those in SA.

“The South Australian government has enacted legislation that prevents local councils from receiving fair and equitable rates from the electricity generation sector, which is in contrast to other state jurisdictions within Australia,” she said.

“Councils must be able to raise fair income from the electricity generation and storage facilities they host in order to provide the necessary services and amenities for their communities.

“Therefore, the council urges the South Australian government to promptly address this rating anomaly that currently benefits international energy companies at the expense of regional South Australian communities.”

Community concerns

Adnyamathanha elder Vince Coulthard said the Coalition’s proposal was “crazy and illogical” considering the community fought so hard against a nuclear waste facility on the Eyre Peninsula.

Uncle Vince Coulthard is opposed to a nuclear power plant being built in Port Augusta.(ABC North & West SA: Viki Ntafillis)

“Now he [Peter Dutton] proposes a reactor for Port Augusta … knowing that the people and the community will oppose it,” he said.

“People need to drum up the awareness about the nuclear poison.”

Community member and Mungallala elder Star Devine shared similar concerns to Mr Coulthard.

“There’s a lot of nature and Aboriginal communities in this area that could be more sustainable and can be opened up for towards more tourism if people would only allow that to happen,” she said.

Mungallala elder Star Devine does not want a nuclear power plant in the region.(ABC News)

Some locals see benefits

Port Augusta local Paul De Bortoli recognised the benefits of nuclear energy, but said he did not want it “on his doorstep”.

“For the environment I guess it would be good,” he said.

“If they go wrong, they will go wrong in a big way. I know technology has improved over the years, but so has car technology and they go wrong in a big way too.”

“It’s easy for the politicians to say let’s put it somewhere, but I’m pretty certain they don’t want it in their backyard.”

Fellow Port Augusta local Kareema Elma was pleased about the announcement and said she felt closing the old coal station had been a wasted opportunity.

“It’s definitely hindered opportunities within the region,” she said.

“It’s [the nuclear proposal] a really great initiative, it’s going to bring a lot of economic resources to Port Augusta, it’s going to open up a lot of job opportunities.”

However, Mrs Elma said there needed to be more education around what this project could mean for the region.

MP says lack of detail ‘unprofessional’

Independent Member for Stuart Geoff Brock said he had not been briefed about the proposal and had already received a lot of phone calls from concerned community members in Port Augusta and Port Pirie.

“The fear is the unknown — nobody knows what they intend to do, there’s no plans for it, there’s no costings for it,” he said.

“They’re indicating that it’s going to go onto the old power station site at Port Augusta, that is in private hands.

“My philosophy is communicating to people, talk to people. 

“We’ve got nothing whatsoever and it’s frustrating, I think it’s unprofessional.”

A state government spokesperson said the government was not opposed to nuclear “in principle”.

“But the economies have to stack up and all advice for Australia is that they don’t,” the spokesperson said.

“The reality is this site is not available, and the opposition has not done the proper groundwork before making yesterday’s announcement.

“Peter Dutton’s nuclear thought bubble has no costs attached to it and assumes SMR [small modular reactor] technology that has never been built in any advanced democratic country.”

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