Sir, - Frank McDonald quite rightly suggests in his article (January 23rd) that it is a pity it took so long for an Irish government to wake up to the nuclear nightmare. One reason for this is the promotion by the EU of nuclear power as exemplified by the attempt to push non nuclear states, including Ireland, into the nuclear "club" on accession to the EU. Thus the Irish government was persuaded in the mid 1970s to endorse a plan to build a nuclear plant at Carnsore and only the strong resistance of the Irish people prevented it. Other states, such as Portugal, have had the same experience.
One of the problems posed by the promotion of nuclear power by the European Commission, is the difficulty of getting research funding for studying the effects of radiation on human populations. Although 10 years ago in the early 1980s some studies were conducted on cancer rates on the cast coast of Ireland, these were not continued and although a national cancer register has now been set up and baseline studies are being developed, there is no current research on the incidence of cancer on the east coast. This was confirmed to me in a seminar in the Cooley in the spring of last year by Dr Harry Comber, director of the National Cancer Registry.
Why not? Why has it been so difficult to fund proper statistical and epidemiological research into the health effects of nuclear radiation and so easy to fund, for example, research into radon? It is because decisions as to what kind of research gets funding are political decisions, not scientific decisions. I have myself fought hard in the Committee for Energy and Research of the European Parliament to include the effects of radiation on human beings as part of EU research into radiation. The EU prefers to fund the effects of radiation on mice.
The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland itself is not immune from questioning on its stance on Sellafield. Nirex, as reported in Frank McDonald's article, sees the Irish Sea, "as a safety device to dilute and disperse radioactive releases that the UK is not willing or able to accommodate on its own territory". It is aided and abetted in this by the RPII who have been quoted by British Nuclear Fuels as having stated, "routine discharges from Sellafield are nothing to worry about because they would be only 0.2 per cent of the total acceptable radiation dose.
How many so called routine discharges are the RPII going to ask the Irish people to accept? Will the Irish Sea become a dead sea before they stop their soothing reassurances? I myself was told in a European Parliament committee by representatives of the Commission that Ireland's RPII had calculated that any radioactive effects on the Irish population of activities at Sellafield were marginal.
That an Irish government is now making on the record objections to the expansion of Sellafield is welcome. I would ask them to extend these on the record formal objections to the European Commission, particularly during Ireland's Presidency of the EU and to make a formal statement in the European Parliament in July. - Yours, etc.,