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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 18, 2011 @ 9:21 am

    Sellafield: should we be concerned?

    Mary Minihan

    Presidential hopeful and Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness voiced concerns about the Sellafield reprocessing plant during a recent European Parliament debate on nuclear safety in the aftermath of the Japanese disaster.

    Ms McGuinness said the accident at Fukushima in Japan had prompted the European Commission to decide to carry out safety assessments on all nuclear facilities across the European Union.

    “It’s a particular issue for Ireland because of our proximity to Sellafield and because of our ongoing concerns about how that facility is being managed by the authorities,” she told The Irish Times after the Strasbourg session.

    Ms McGuinness said 30 per cent of energy in the European Union came from nuclear  power, so a public debate about the EU’s “energy mix” was vital. She said not only power plants but also reprocessing and storage facilities should be checked and decisive action should be taken in the event of facilities not meeting the required standards.

    She said there was more than 140 nuclear facilities across the EU and therefore nuclear was a very significant part of the “energy mix”, even though Ireland produced none of it.

    “So we sit here in this parliament and we’re powered by nuclear. We’ve had a cup of coffee that was made from nuclear energy, so to suggest that we can switch off immediately, while it sounds good, is not practical. So therefore safety and getting it right is very, very important,” she said.

    Ms McGuinness also said there was a need for better co-ordination on energy matters at EU level and called for a debate on how to increase the share of renewable energy, although she stressed renewables did not provide “the easy answer”.

    I was reminded that during Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s first Leaders’ Questions session in the Dail last month, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said there had been two small earthquakes in England recently, one of which was in Cumbria, where Sellafield is located. Mr Adams asked Mr Kenny to raise this issue with the British authorities. The Taoiseach said he did not have full details of the incident, but much to everyone’s surprise (especially Mr Adams’, I thought!) said he would be happy to raise it with British Prime Minister David Cameron when he met him.

    In fairness, Environment Minister Phil Hogan raised the contentious issue when he met his British counterpart Chris Huhne recently. But I wonder if it’s high on Mr Kenny’s agenda as he attends his first formal bilateral meeting with Mr Cameron at 10 Downing Street today, as part of what the Government is calling its ongoing “diplomatic offensive” (what an unfortunate term!).

    • cold mike says:

      Sellafield poses no more a threat now than it ever did but Irish politicians will never miss a chance to try to suggest they can change the policies of a foreign state on this matter. Still at least Mairead McGuinness is willing to acknowledge the reality of nuclear power in Europe – it won’t be turned off and Ireland is using a small part of it.

    • paul m says:

      It will fall on deaf ears. Again. Ms McGuinness and Mr Kenny arent the first high profile public figures to have raised the issue of sellafield nor will they be the last. Mark Thomas did an excellent show on the UK nuclear facilities especially how the nuclear waste is transported unguarded across public rail networks that on several locations show to be highly irradiated. If they treat their own that way there is little regard for our safety across the water. we’ll unfortunately have to wait for some sort of near catastrophe for the UK government to take notice. As we know money is in scarce supply and the only “renewable” energy investment seems to be the strikes on Libya to keep oil stocks soaring.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Typical – now she’s mooted for the Aras we’re going to hear this drivel again and again.

      The reason there is an issue with Japan’s nuclear stations is because they were built decades ago and were unable to withdtand an earthquake and tunsami on a scale no one planned for – the fact they didn’t just crumble to pieces shows just how well built they are – is there any infastructure anywhere that is built so far in excess of the minimum standards that it would withstand what Japan went through?

      Ms McGuinness would be better served to explain how exactly her Presidency will make any difference to the lives of ordinary people in Ireland and then spouting scare stories that have no basis in fact.

    • CQ says:

      Never mind Sellafield, what about Nyberg. Well, given the Nyberg Report, I think an all-round APOLOGY is due to Fianna Fáil and especially from those commentators, and politicians now in government — those who chanted non-stop the mantra: FF ruined the country. The mass of Irish people (according to Nyberg) lost the run of themselves and hey presto boom/time was followed by crash/time — I distinctly remember (whilst at Mass one Sunday) sensing that something was going v wrong during the CelticT period and no, I personally did not lose the run of myself — hard to do that when you’re on a widow’s pension. (The Church was pretty empty btw).
      It seems to me, also that every report bar the Ryan Report is being harshly criticised in the Irish media.

    • click here says:

      Off-topic, I know, but I can’t let this pass without a respons:

      “I think an all-round APOLOGY is due to Fianna Fáil” – CQ

      The Fianna Fáil-stuffed board of the Central Bank ignored the warnings of its senior advisers.

      Given that, Fianna Fáil and all its cheerleaders should be grovelling for forgiveness before getting the hell out of anything to do with Irish politics and running the country.

    • Monty Burns says:

      With the amount of disinformation about Sellafield and Chernobyl, Ireland really has cornered the market in terms of ignorance about nuclear power.

    • Mike says:

      Wow!. Ms McGuinnessl had finally discovered Sellafield. Only the Lord knows what she will discover next!

    • Mick Sheehan says:

      Ms. McGuiness is new to anti-nuclear power politics, perhaps she could learn from her fellow Presidential contender, Michael D Higgins , who has a long history in this area.

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