The Government has firmly ruled out nuclear power as an option to meet Ireland’s future energy needs, despite acknowledging that we are overly reliant on fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal.
Natural Resources Minister, Noel Demspey, said nuclear power in Ireland was a “non-runner” at the launch of the first Government Green Paper on Energy since 1978, in Dublin yesterday.
Although the State’s energy policy will be reviewed every five years, Mr Dempsey said he couldn’t envisage any government supporting nuclear power, as no political party was in favour of it.
The Minister said nuclear power was not an option for a combination of safety, security, environmental and economic reasons.
The Green Paper, which will be followed by a White Paper in early 2007 — following a consultation period — sets out ambitious targets to reduce Ireland’s reliance on imported oil and gas.
Instead of turning to nuclear power, the Government strategy foresees the country’s increasing energy needs being met by renewable resources like wind power and biofuels.
The strategy will also focus on improving the security of oil and gas supplies by building new interconnectors to both Northern Ireland and Britain.
Mr Dempsey said he also hoped the Corrib gas field could come on stream, as soon as possible, as it would provide a major boost to indigenous energy supplies.
A pro-nuclear lobby group, Better Environment with Nuclear Group, described the Government’s opposition to nuclear power as “bizarre.”
The organisation claimed the risks associated with the nuclear energy were manageable and acceptable compared to the risks associated with global warming.
Fine Gael criticised the Government’s lack of vision and the absence of costings in the Green Paper.
The party’s energy spokesperson, Bernard Durkan, said the Minister had presented the public with “a hodge-podge of half-measures.”
The Green Party described the Green Paper as “remarkably disappointing”, due to the lack of proposed measures to tackle Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuels, especially in the area of transport.
Labour energy spokesperson, Tommy Broughan, said yesterday’s 34% rise in gas prices highlighted the appalling failure of the Government’s energy policy.
“It is clear that most advances in the Irish energy sector have occurred as a result of directives from the EU, rather than initiatives on the part of the coalition,” said Mr Broughan.
Employers group, IBEC called on the Government to get the Corrib gas field project up and running as soon as possible, as it would provide 60% of Ireland’s gas needs when in production.