Response to Minister White ruling out nuclear energy for Ireland

BENE response to Minister Alex White’s interview with, 10 December 2015

BENE welcomes the Minister’s clear acceptance that nuclear energy is a clean carbon-free energy source, which in principle is capable of making a major contribution to reducing the carbon footprint of electricity production. It also notes that he does not rule it out for all time.

That being said, however, BENE is deeply disappointed at the terms in which the Minister nonetheless dismisses nuclear energy as one of the serious options for the provision of low-carbon baseload electricity generation for Ireland in the medium term.

The Minister, in BENE’s view, fails to recognise the seriousness of the dilemma posed for Ireland’s generation planners by the critical need to replace coal as a source of baseload electricity by an equivalent low-carbon generation source, and the fact that, if nuclear is excluded, there is no other source which ticks all the key boxes of 24/7 availability, proven commerciality, long-term sustainability and minimal carbon emissions.

Of low-carbon alternatives open to consideration, biomass is problematic as to both economy and fuel availability, coal with carbon capture-and-storage is far from being a proven technology, and reliance entirely on interconnection with the UK or France sacrifices the independence of control which could be critical in a tight supply situation.

The Minister dwells heavily on the unsuitability for Ireland of the very large type of nuclear plant which is to be built in the UK. Nobody disagrees with him in this. However, what he appears to be unaware of, or chooses to ignore, is the ideal suitability for Ireland of the type of small modular nuclear reactor which is attracting increasing worldwide interest.

The fact that gaining public acceptance for nuclear energy would undoubtedly be challenging in no way warrants, in BENE’s view, its being excluded a priori from consideration in our medium-term planning, as would appear to be the Minister’s intention.


Editor’s Note: published an interview today with Minister for Energy, Alex White TD, (Why Ireland won’t be turning to nuclear energy anytime soon) in which he ruled out nuclear energy in Ireland while he is Minister or “within the purview of this White Paper”. The article has attracted over 10,000 views and over 100 comments within the first few hours of publication, many of whom support nuclear energy in Ireland.

BENE is an Irish group of mainly retired energy and nuclear professionals who argue that Ireland should at least consider nuclear energy on a rational basis. We are entirely independent and are not aligned with any political party or movement or any other entity.

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