C: Mariana Carvalho / Scop.io

Should Ireland go nuclear?

In the summer of 1978, our family were on our way to Wexford for our annual holiday. It was during the weekend of the big musical festival at Carnsore Point to protest against the proposal for a nuclear power plant here.

The impressive line-up featured virtually everyone who was anyone on the Irish music scene. Ireland’s Woodstock, so it was.

As we passed throngs of people on our way further south to Curracloe my father was grumbling about hippies and communists. This stimulated a brief political debate in the back seat among the five of us squashed childer.

My sister Maria, ever a rock of sense and obviously realising that asking my Da was pointless, piped up.

“Mammy, are you anti-nuclear?”

“No,” interjected Jimmy. “She’s Aunty Patsy.” We were a comical family.

Since that time, the mere mention of the Irish state using nuclear generation plants to create a long-term domestic energy source has been anathema. Back then, the pop tabloid Hot Press, which probably supplies a significant proportion of the intellectual content of our current political elite, described the Green Paper on nuclear as “diluted bullshit.”

The public opposition eventually led to the prohibition on the building of nuclear power plants as part of the Electricity Regulation Act (1999).

Like many things in Ireland, this “ban” amounts to little more than virtue signalling as a significant and growing part of the electricity that is imported through interconnectors is generated in nuclear plants based in other countries. In the flat earth schema of Green leftie types, presumably – just like the CO2 emissions pumped out by “progressive” China which politely stay within their own air space – a nuclear accident in France would stop at Cherbourg.

Whether the threat of a nuclear accident is a significant one, is rarely debated. The only major accident one which had an impact on the human and general environment was at Chernobyl in the Ukraine in 1986 when it was under the rule of socialist bureaucrats. Like most of the disasters of socialism, the fault lay in human incompetence rather than the means controlled by the commissars.

Benjamin Sovacool of the Danish Centre for Energy Technology has estimated the number of direct fatalities from accidents at nuclear plants to be 44 since 1957, 28 of them at Chernobyl along with estimates of up to 5,000 subsequent deaths from cancer. Far more people have died directly and indirectly from mining, off shore gas and oil exploration and other energy related activities.

All that aside, there is a persuasive argument surely in favour of Ireland exploring the nuclear option as a means both to reduce the use of fossil fuels and more importantly to create a sustainable indigenous source that could greatly reduce our dangerous level of dependence on imported energy.

Those who are in favour of the “nuclear option” also point to other advantages in terms of electricity costs, land use, employment and others. As one example of potential savings, the unit cost per household for electricity in the Irish Republic in 2020 was the fourth highest of all the then 28 EU members states.

This was around a third higher than in France which generates around 70% of its electricity from nuclear and from whom we intend to import nuclear generated electricity through the planned Celtic Interconnector.

At present yet another steep increase in household energy costs is being cited as an example of the costs being paid by the indigenous population for generations of failure of the elite, combined with the current ideologically driven closure of our only viable domestic source in the peat sector.

So, nuclear is something that ought to be the subject of a “national conversation,” as proposed by the authors of a study on Nuclear Development in Ireland published by 18 for 0. It sets out a particular view on the advantages of pursuing such a policy, which might serve as the initiator of such a discussion.

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