Ryan declines to rule out nuclear power as energy alternative

Minister endorses wind option but cautions on disputes over installations along east coast

Nuclear power should be considered as an energy option because the climate crisis is so severe, Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan has said.

He told the Seanad that “we must look at every option”. But he added that nuclear energy would never be as economically competitive a choice for Ireland as wind energy.

He also said he believes it possible to have zero-carbon data centres. They have complicated climate control efforts and provoked controversy because Ireland is Europe’s data centre capital and the sector will consume 29 per cent of Ireland’s electricity by 2028.

Mr Ryan said data centres “will have to change their ways”. And it “might be a hassle for them” but he would ask the sector to use Ireland as a test location for the use of back-up hydrogen, ammonia or batteries, “whatever is zero” carbon, to ensure they are part of the solution.


The Minister was speaking during a debate on the landmark climate action legislation which aims for a 51 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and a carbon neutral economy by 2050.

Independent NUI Senator Ronan Mullen asked "do we need to have a conversation . . . about whether nuclear power is part of our future in terms of reaching our carbon targets without devastating whole sectors of the economy and community life? I am asking the question; I'm not making a statement."

Mr Ryan replied that he agreed, we should look at nuclear options. He added that he would not rule out anything because the climate crisis is so severe.

But stressed that he did not envisage modular small-scale nuclear energy developing in the way solar and wind energy are developing, with the costs coming down.

“It will never be competitive now – nuclear versus renewable – in our country because we have such a wind resource.”

But he cautioned that “we could completely tar ourselves in glue if we do not get the planning right” for wind energy, including public consultation and environmental aspects of planning.

Dublin’s south side

And he warned that in the south side of Dublin city “this will be a very contentious issue as wind farms come into Dublin Bay and all along the east coast. We must, absolutely, make sure that the environmental standards are proper and correct, if we are to get public support.”

The Minister also said the State would be building bypasses rather than motorways in the future. “The more bypasses we have of towns, the more those towns can revive. We bring life back into the centre.”

But the days of roads that “go out and out and out” are over.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times