Disagreement on nuclear for Ireland's climate change strategy

19 February 2007

Irish premier, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, has rejected nuclear power as a solution to global warming. However, the chairman of the Irish Electricity Supply Board Tadhg O'Donoghue said that his company would be interested in entering the nuclear power market by joining forces with a European energy company.

Ahern was speaking to the Ógra Fianna Fáil national youth conference in Galway on 17 February, where he promised the delayed Irish climate change strategy would be published by April 2007. He also announced plans for buses to include biofuel in their fuel mix and street lighting to use energy efficient light bulbs.

For electricity generation Ahern said Ireland would make use of the power of the wind and sea, biofuel co-generation and would consider the use of carbon capture and clean-coal generation technology for future power stations.

However, he described nuclear energy as "as a false promise and a failed solution" and said that Fianna Fáil would work to eliminate the 'threats' posed by the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria, UK by securing its "safe and orderly decommissioning."

However, a keynote speaker at the youth conference, Philip Walton, said there was a "resurgence of interest" in nuclear power internationally, due to the impact of global warming on climate change.

Ireland already make some use of nuclear generation from electricity supplied through interconnectors with the UK.

In 2003 a UN tribunal held under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), rejected the calls of Irish government to suspend operations and shipments from the Sellafield MOX plant.

ESB chair backs nuclear

Nuclear energy was also backed by the chair of ESB, the Electricity Supply Board, Tadhg O’Donoghue, who was speaking to Irish newspaper The Post. O'Donoghue said that the ESB would be interested in entering the nuclear energy market through a partnership, probably with a large European company. The partnership would be needed to allow for the capital investment in new plant.

However, O'Donoghue recognised that any such partnerships would probably be 20 years away, given the current political situation in Ireland, although he believed that in 50 year time most of the energy being consumed in Ireland would be nuclear generated. "People will be forced into very hard choices, either continue polluting the atmosphere or change," said O'Donoghue.

Previously, O'Donoghue has called for a debate on nuclear energy in Ireland. A government-commissioned report by Forfas in April 2006 pointed to the need for Ireland again to consider nuclear power in order "to secure its long-run energy security."

Further information 

WNA’s Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries information paper