The world’s traditional means of generating energy have been intensely polluting, expelling millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere with scant regard for the consequences. Ireland has been complicit in this: Moneypoint, the coal-powered station in Co Clare, releases 3.12 million tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere annually.
But as Moneypoint comes to the end of its operational life cycle, it is time to have a serious discussion about Ireland’s energy future, and nuclear power needs to be part of that discussion.
The difficulties at Fukushima have dominated international news coverage, and sparked angry protests. 2011 is the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, which puts ‘PR person for nuclear industry’ at the top of the ‘thankless jobs’ list for this year. Political figures worldwide have been quick to poor scorn on the bogeyman of nuclear power. But is that fair or wise ? Hardly. Nuclear energy is the most efficient major source of energy. It is also the safest, with much less deaths than both conventional fuels and renewable technologies, and it massively reduces CO2 emissions. And if we’re serious about saving the environment, we cannot afford to dismiss nuclear power.
OPINION: Fukushima frightens us all but mankind has never walked away from a technology, no matter how hard it is to master, write DAVID SOWBY and FRANK TURVEY
EVER SINCE a human being first lit a fire, humankind has striven to harness the forces of nature in ways that yielded benefits but which also carried risks. As civilisation progressed, the benefits of any particular advance became more substantial but, by and large, so also did the risks.
But from the boiler explosions of the 19th century, through hydroelectric dam collapses, mining and oil-rig disasters, train and air crashes, Bhopal and Chernobyl, the response of humanity has never been to abandon a technology, but to derive lessons from what has happened so as to make the benefits available more safely in the future.
Thus will it be also with nuclear power in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident.
Ireland took an important step towards addressing its future energy needs with Eamon Ryan’s recent call for an Oireachtas committee discussion about nuclear power, writes Tom O’Flaherty.
It is becoming widely accepted that the greatest challenge facing human society over the next few decades is to arrest the onset of climate change, while there is still time to avert its more devastating effects. A parallel challenge is to meet the world’s energy needs, and to safeguard national competitiveness, against a background of the diminishing supply and increasing cost of oil and gas.
Clearly these challenges have to be met on two fronts: by curtailing growth in energy demand, and by major development of non-fossil sources of energy. It is BENE’s belief that nuclear energy has a vital contribution to make to the latter objective.