IRELAND will escape the worst of any release of radiation in the event of a nuclear accident at any of eight new proposed power plants in the UK.
A report from the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) says that prevailing winds will push most of the radioactivity away from Ireland if one of the new plants fails.
And it said that the day-to-day operations of the plants would not result in Irish citizens receiving any increase in daily doses of radiation.
However, in the event of a severe meltdown – described as a one in 33 million event – people would have to shelter in their homes for up to two days, food controls would be in place and there would be an increase in cancer rates as well as a severe economic impact.
The British government plans to build eight plants – five on the Irish Sea coastline – up to 2025. The sites have been identified at Hinkley Point, Oldbury, Moorside, Sizewell, Wylfa, Bradwell, Hartlepool, and Heysham. Of these, seven already have nuclear power plants on them, and the eighth is at Moorside which is beside the Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Plant.
One is just 100km from the coast of Ireland, at Wylfa in north Wales.
RPII chief executive Dr Ann McGarry said a severe accident would impact on the economy, and that people could be hit with 18,000 units of radiation – more than four times the annual average dose.
However, just half an extra unit of radiation a year would be absorbed during day-to-day operations. "Severe radiological effects in Ireland are unlikely, but a socio-economic impact will be seen in the event of severe accident," she said.
"Food controls and agricultural protection measures would need to be imposed. In severe accidents, sheltering would be required for 24-48 hours after the accident."
The report was compiled analysing 21 years of weather and sea-current data. It assumed the reactors would operate for 40-60 years, and used US data on the probability of an accident occurring.
It would take "weeks if not months" for similar amounts of radiation as occurred in the Fukushima plant in Japan to reach our coastline, and the dose would still be below the 1,000 unit limit
Just one of the plants, at Hinkley Point in Somerset, has been given planning permission.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan will raise the report with UK authorities.
The report would be used to inform Ireland's emergency planning process, it added.