Response to the Energy White Paper

BENE (Better Environment with Nuclear Energy) responds to Energy White Paper

BENE notes with much interest the totally non-­committal treatment of nuclear energy in the Energy White Paper, published today by Minister Alex White.

While acknowledging that nuclear energy currently provides a significant proportion of the low carbon electricity consumed in the EU, the White Paper neither recognises, nor rules out, nuclear energy as a possible component of Ireland’s future energy mix. This stance shows a clear lack of courage.

For what can only be interpreted as populist reasons, the White Paper 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 White Paper ignores the ideal suitability for Ireland of the type of small modular nuclear reactor, with enhanced safety features, which is attracting increasing interest worldwide. The fact that gaining public acceptance for nuclear energy would undoubtedly be challenging in no way justifies an unwillingness to recognise it as being at least a possible answer to a crucial energy problem – how to replace coal for electricity generation-­ for which no other satisfactory solution can at this point be identified.

Following CoP21 it is evident that all available means of decarbonising energy production must be utilised to the maximum degree possible. The White Paper’s hesitancy to grasp the nettle of seriously considering nuclear, presumably because of its perceived unpopularity, does not augur well for Ireland’s bona fides in confronting the challenge to the future of our planet which climate change presents.

16 December 2015