Nuclear energy in Ireland

 

Sir, – A number of recent letters have shown support for nuclear energy, including one from Nick Armstrong (March 6th) who supplied useful information on global clean energy options and costs. The future of nuclear energy as it applies to Ireland is quite different, however. This difference will probably be to our advantage, as imminent developments in small nuclear reactor design have the potential to change the minds of many in Ireland who oppose nuclear almost on instinct.

For example, new designs of small nuclear plants make them physically incapable of meltdown, power runaway or explosion – the causes of the only three significant accidents in the history of civilian nuclear energy – and can be fuelled by existing nuclear “waste”, thus eliminating most popular objections to nuclear energy. The cost of these reactors will be significantly lowered because their increased safety is achieved by the simple characteristics of the fuel rather than by heavily engineered safety systems, as is the case with the new nuclear plant being built in Britain.

Our analysis (bene.ie) of reliable independent research into these plants shows that small nuclear plants could produce power in Ireland for less than five cents per kWh (unit of electricity), which is much lower than other sources of reliable, clean energy.

While the game-changing improvement in plant safety is impressive, the dramatic reduction in cost is why many people believe that small reactors will form an essential part of Ireland’s future efforts to secure clean and affordable energy.

Ireland’s EPA notes that “transformational change is needed to deal with climate change” and show little potential of meeting those for 2030 and beyond even if we fully implement our ambitious renewable energy plans.

Official consideration of the potential of small nuclear power plants for Ireland would be a powerful statement of intent to deliver on that transformational change. It could also alert us to the possibility that small, cheap and clean nuclear can be of significant economic and environmental benefit to Ireland in coming decades. – Yours, etc,

PHILIP WALTON,

Emeritus Professor

of Applied Physics,

NUI Galway;

DENIS DUFF, BE, CEng,

on behalf of BENE

(Better Environment

with Nuclear Energy),

Greystones,

Co Wicklow.