Ireland’s Energy: Should we build a small nuclear reactor at Moneypoint?

Nuclear campaigner Denis Duff believes nuclear energy, off the agenda since the Carnsore protests in the 1970s, should be considered as part of Ireland’s energy future

Denis Duff of Better Environment with Nuclear Energy (Bene): “Renewable energy is useful but limited”

Denis Duff of Better Environment with Nuclear Energy (Bene): “Renewable energy is useful but limited”


Denis Duff, a civil engineer with more than 30 years’ experience in renewable and thermal electricity generating systems, doesn’t consider himself a “nuclear evangelist”, but he is one of the founders of Better Environment with Nuclear Energy (Bene).

The group’s primary objectives are to bring balance to the Irish energy debate and to have nuclear energy considered as a possible energy source.

Since plans for a nuclear power plant at Carnsore Point in Co Wexford were dropped in the 1970s, nuclear power in Ireland has been off the agenda. The plants were considered too big for Ireland, there were problems with waste, we couldn’t build the plants and they wouldn’t be safe, he says.

But the Bene core group of nine engineers, scientists and other professionals have made a submission to the Government calling for nuclear to be part of the debate.

Duff says renewable energy is useful but limited. Renewable and gas combined will not be enough to achieve the State’s greenhouse gas targets.

To illustrate the long-term effects of national energy policy, Duff says Ireland and Finland were both signatories to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 1968. By 1980 Ireland had rejected nuclear power, but it had been adopted by Finland. Now, he says, Finland produces about 30 per cent of its energy from each of nuclear, hydro and coal, with the remainder coming from gas.

In contrast Ireland gets about 60 per cent of its energy from gas, 15 per cent from renewable and the remainder from coal and peat.

Finland emits only marginally more CO2 per head of population than Ireland while using twice as much energy. Duff argues that “one real possibility” is replacing the coal-powered Moneypoint, Co Clare, with one of a new breed of small modular reactors.