Proposed nuclear power plant not a threat to Ireland, Government says

Irish public urged to participate in a consultation process on €22.5 Sizewell C facility at Suffolk

Located on the east coast of England, Sizewell C is to contain two reactor units generating 3,340MW of power, enough for about six million homes. Stock image: iStock

Located on the east coast of England, Sizewell C is to contain two reactor units generating 3,340MW of power, enough for about six million homes. Stock image: iStock

 

The Government has said it is satisfied a proposed €22.5 billion nuclear power plant in the UK does not pose a threat to Ireland.

The Irish public has been urged to participate in a consultation process regarding the development of the Sizewell C facility at Suffolk.

In line with a UN convention, UK authorities announced the consultation in Ireland on Wednesday and details of the plant are to be made available for review in planning offices across Ireland.

Located on the east coast of England, it is to contain two reactor units generating 3,340MW of power, enough for about six million homes. Construction is due to take up to 12 years and the plant itself would have a lifespan of 60 years.

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government received notification from the UK authorities regarding the plans under the terms of the UN Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, known as the Espoo Convention.

The plans were “screened” twice by the UK Secretary of State, who said they are “not likely to have significant adverse transboundary effects on the environment” in Ireland.

In a statement the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment said that position was reflected in advice it requested and received from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in July.

“Ireland respects the right of other States to determine their own energy mix; where that includes nuclear energy; Ireland expects that the entire life-cycle from generation to waste disposal adheres to the highest possible international standards.”

Environmental Groups

The Green Party did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

However the environmental lobby, long concerned by the UK’s nuclear policy, has raised said vigilance was needed. Issues for campaigners include Ireland’s readiness for a worst-case scenario accident as well as questions around waste disposal.

“While that [the UK’s assurance there is no adverse threat to Ireland] is very welcome, people can’t be complacent,” said Attracta Uí Bhroin, environmental law officer at the Irish Environmental Network (IEN).

“The fact of the matter is that nuclear accidents do happen, thankfully very rarely...absolute vigilance is essential.”

Ms Uí Bhroin pointed out that nobody recalls what the initial probability was of an incident at Chernobyl, Fukushima or Three Mile Island in the US, only the disasters themselves.

She said it was important that members of the public - not just environmental groups - take part in order to apply pressure on Irish authorities to ensure oversight, particularly in terms of an environmental impact assessment.

A 2016 report by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) looking at the potential outcomes of a nuclear accident close to Ireland, found that even in a scenario where there was no actual contamination, reputational losses in relation to tourism and export markets could amount to €4 billion.

Sizewell C has completed eight years of public consultation in the UK. At the end of June, EDF, the French state-controlled utility behind it, reported that an application had been filed for a nuclear site licence. It said a planning application, also lodged in June, would be examined over a 15 to 18 month period.

Sizewell C’s nearly identical sister station at Hinkley Point is under construction in Somerset. Its nuclear site licence application was submitted in July, 2011 and approved in November, 2012.

The Government has asked the EPA to formally respond to the consultation notice and the spokeswoman said there is ongoing engagement between UK and Irish authorities on nuclear planning and safety matters through the UK-Ireland Radiological Matters Group.

That forum, which is due to meet again later this year, allows Irish experts the opportunity to question UK authorities on various relevant issues.