Small reactors and nuclear option


A chara, – Proponents of nuclear power for Ireland consistently make their case based on French and Swedish examples (Letters, November 24th)

On the face of it, this seems like a no brainer, however scratch the surface and one finds that France and Sweden have no Small Modular Reactors (the only type that could work on our small islanded grid). They don’t because these units are still only in development world-wide and have had many false dawns over the decades. They hold a lot of promise but are dependent upon successful design, certifications, as well as sufficient orders to realise the economies of scale required to finance their build.

It’s worth pointing out that in the past 20 years our electricity demand in Ireland has increased by 33 per cent but despite this rise we have simultaneously reduced the intensity of CO2 emissions from electricity generation by 56 per cent. We have not been the laggards the letter would seem to suggest.

The French started building their Framanville 3 nuclear unit in 2007 which was due online by 2012; they hope to have it online next year, and their Penly unit had to be abandoned. Perhaps we here in Ireland can do what the French, with their decades of nuclear building experience, couldn’t?

The Swedes had better sense to stay clear and instead met their rising demand with new wind generation.

The best case for SMR deployment here in Ireland is the mid-2030s; which could be great if a design makes it through the gauntlet, but in the meantime we should keep plugging away like we have been with the projects available right now, with planning, with financial backing, to achieve the latest Climate Action Plan of 80 per cent renewables by 2030.

– Yours, etc,



Co Kerry.