Safety will be central in debate on nuclear power
SAFETY concerns would be the first issue to be debated when talking about the possibility of using nuclear power in Ireland, Energy Minister Alex White has said.
The use of nuclear power is banned by law and any change in that would require Dail and Seanad approval, he stressed - but he reiterated comments made in an interview with the Irish Independent in which he said that any discussion on the future of Ireland's energy supply must include consideration of the nuclear option.
He said all previous governments had a poor record of planning for future energy supply and the main issue was the country's continued dependence on imported fossil fuels such as oil and coal.
The minister admitted that there were safety concerns and said that he was not advocating the imminent use of nuclear energy.
He said that, at all events, such a radical policy change would require a change to the law.
Mr White promised a new energy policy document by the summer after a prolonged period of consultation with all interested parties. He urged a detailed and reasoned debate on the issue ahead of policy decisions being taken.
"I'm simply saying no comprehensive debate on future energy needs can exclude any source of energy," he told RTE radio.
The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is working on the long-term energy strategy. This will set out the role for conventional power generation from oil and gas; renewables including wind and energy; along with nuclear and other energy sources.
The minister also said that politicians and 'official' Ireland had not performed well in the midst of a "crisis" about our future energy needs. He admitted that many people living in the shadow of pylons and wind turbines felt they were "victims of a policy" which was not of their making, and there was a need to work more closely with local communities.
The Green Party's energy spokesman, Cllr Ossian Smyth, said the proposal was unrealistic on many grounds, especially the ruinous cost of construction and operation.
The minister's comments about the potential use of nuclear power follows a government discussion document on energy last summer which included a suggestion that it could be "technically possible" to construct a small nuclear reactor in Ireland.
It also suggested that such an installation could replace the coal-fired power station at Moneypoint, Co Clare, which is due to close in 2025.