Sunday, September 28, 2008

Our Nuclear Destiny

The most important decision about Ireland's energy future took place this week. And no, I don't mean the announcement that we might be getting a new grid for electric cars. I mean of course the decision by France's EdF to buy out the UK Government's remaining stake in British Energy.

This is important because it means that the skills, capital and ambition is now in place to build up to four new nuclear power stations in Britain by 2020. Why should that matter to us? Fundamentally because our future energy security will be contingent on our neighbour's energy security. The UK has left it perilously late to sort its energy investment plans, and there is still the chance that things could go horribly wrong. But if they go horribly wrong for Britain it will be catastrophic for Ireland.

Already we are falling behind with vital decisions in relation to new power generation capacity and integration into the European electricity grid. Instead of getting on with building a state-of-the-art coal powered electricity station - and planning for a nuclear power station - we are dancing on the heads of pins with discussions about carbon taxes and carbon footprints. Let's be clear about this: if we don't have sufficient electricity we won't have an economy to create the jobs and wealth to pay any taxes let alone carbon taxes. Though we will undoubtedly have a lower carbon footprint - Amish style in fact.

Yes let's plug in the renewables and the electric cars: but let's not delude ourselves that we can be wealthy and 'eco-pure' at the same time. Trade offs have to be made: as usual the UK will go ahead and make the tough decisions, and with luck we'll get to piggy back on the outcomes without having to compromise our precious principles. Make that a lot of luck.


  1. Hi Gerard,

    I don't think it'll be that bad at all, but you're right about the nuclear option in the medium run. Why not just build a net of undersea power cables to the UK and France? That way we don't need the overhead a nuclear power plant would set us back, and we don't need to worry so much about meltdowns. We are still at the mercy of price fluctuations, but that's a good trade off I think in the long run.

  2. Stephen I think that network is in planning, mainly with the UK although these may fall victim to cutbacks.

    There is an awful two-facedness of the environmentalists who go on about how serious the problem is but then refuse to face up to the fact that nuclear is the only non-carbon solution.

    I was at a talk by a leading environmentalist recently. In a very slick hour he had one slide on nuclear, basically saying that there was no point in it as there isn't enough uranium left. I didn't know the facts to challenge him but I looked it up afterwards and there is enough uranium for thousands of years!!

    I was angry at being lied to but also at the sheer thick-headedness of an ethos that is happy to play up the problem but only supports ideologically compatible solutions


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