2 March 2014 Edition
Nuclear ‘gold rush’
Five new nuclear power plants to face Ireland’s east coast
One of the defences offered by lawyers acting for the British Energy Secretary was that the Irish Government had not objected to the new nuclear plant!
IT IS the equivalent of a new gold rush, lucrative to the tune of billions of euro and the only fools are the Irish people.
The governments of France, China, South Korea and Britain, as well as companies in Japan and the USA, are all involved in a race to build a new generation of nuclear power plants in Britain, many of them on the western seaboard near the key population centres of Ireland’s east coast.
Last October, the Conservative/Liberal Government in Britain signed a contract commissioning state-owned French energy company EDF to build a new power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Yes, the same flooded, environmentally-comprised Somerset in the news throughout February.
The Hinkley contract conditions make for interesting reading. EDF get a guaranteed price for the electricity the plant produces; they will also be able to draw on state aid of up to £17billion (according to EU Commission estimates).
An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, sought a judicial review of the decision in the British courts. Last December, the High Court rejected An Taisce’s case. One of the defences offered by lawyers acting for British Energy Secretary Ed Davey was that the Irish Government had not objected to the new nuclear plant!
In this they were right. The Irish Government have been silent on not just the new Hinkley plant; they have had nothing to say on a strategy that could bring new nuclear power stations to Braystones, Sellafield, Kirksanton, Heysham and Wylfa on the English and Welsh west coasts.
The record of how Sellafield has been operated highlights the reality of the nuclear industry in Britain, complete with massive losses of taxpayers’ money as well as deadly health and environmental implications for Cumbria in England and the Irish east coast.
The clean-up of Sellafield alone is now estimated at over £70billion. Nuclear Managing Partners, a US-led consortium, has the contract for dismantling the 2.3 square miles of facilities and 1,000 buildings used to house the world’s largest store of nuclear waste and other radioactive materials. Japanese company Toshiba are proposing to build a new nuclear power plant at Sellafield, so the site will never be free of a radiation threat to Ireland.
Last December, Nuclear Managing Partners apologised for cost over-runs on the clean-up projects, missed deadlines and dubious expenses, one of which involved a claim for a £700 taxi bill to transport a cat owned by an NMP executive who was moving house.
In June 2013, Sellafield Ltd was fined £700,000 for mistakenly sending radioactive waste to a landfill site. In 2013, it was reported that of 14 clean-up projects at the site, 12 were behind schedule and five were over budget. Despite these damning failures, the executives who run Nuclear Managing Partners were paid bonuses of £6.6million in the years 2009 to 2012. (Managing, are ye?)
The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) published a report in June 2013 maintaining that the new nuclear building programme posed a “very low” risk to Ireland. However, our most recent reference point is the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, which led to 154,000 people having to leave their homes – 18,000 are still not allowed return.
• The Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan led to 154,000 people having to leave their homes
The RPII report did concede that in the event of “any accident” there would be a “socio-economic impact” on Ireland and that “there was a continuing need for maintenance of emergency plans in Ireland to deal with the consequences of a nuclear accident abroad”.
EDF Energy (who now own eight nuclear plants in Britain) have applied to extend their working life for a further 10 years than originally planned; four of these are on the British west coast, facing Ireland.
Once again the Irish Government has nothing to say on this nuclear proliferation and it is hard to have faith in the British Government or their nuclear regulators who continually prioritise and subsidise nuclear power over renewable energy. One thing is clear: the Irish people’s concerns about nuclear power in Britain are not being listened to.