Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Nuclear Holidays

Every year hundreds of thousands of Irish people holiday in France, as I am this week. And every year we experience the deep down dread in our Irish eco-souls as we lie awake in our gites wondering if the nuclear power station next door will explode. Actually, I made that last bit up. Let's face it, 99.9% of Irish holiday makers in France don't give a second thought to French nuclear power, blissfully ignorant of the risks they are taking. Myself, I'm here in Antibes, well within the fallout zone from not one but four nuclear power stations at Tricastin in idyllic Provence. Strange how you get used to things ...

Back in Ireland we are embarking on an 'energy first' of our own: ramping up the share of renewable energy (i.e.: wind, for all practical purposes) beyond anything tried anywhere else in the world. As the ESRI noted in a recent paper on the Government's energy and climate policies, the current target requires that wind delivers 20-25% of all our electricity generation by 2020, which is "a large multiple of the level of wind penetration actually achieved in any functioning power system with weak interconnection, and is also a multiple of targets enunciated in other countries."

Moreover, such a level of exposure to an intermittent power source demands a significant backup or baseload power generation resource. Nuclear is ideal for this purpose (regardless of its other limitations), so is gas. So maybe we need to build an interconnector to France before 2020; or outsource our electricity generation requirements to EdF? Of course, if the lights start going out over Ireland on a frosty, winter's day when the wind doesn't blow (as on February 16th this year) then we might all be happy to move to France to cuddle up to a nice nuclear power station ...


  1. significant backup or baseload power generation resource. Nuclear is ideal for this purpose

    That is the last thing nuclear is useful for. The turn on time of a Nuclear power station is quiet long. Gas is the best. In the future flow batteries have a place

  2. RDS Irish Times ‘Ireland in 2030’ lecture entitled Nuclear Energy – why is it on the agenda?, which will be given by Dr William J. Nuttall in the RDS Concert Hall on Monday, May 12 at 7.00pm.

    I'm definitely attending - may be of interest to your readers...



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