Comhar: Informed debate required on nuclear issue

Calls for a debate about nuclear power in Ireland have been supported by the country's Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan.

At the present time, the country has no nuclear-generated electricity, but this may change in light of pro-nuclear political developments in countries including the UK and Finland.

The Comhar Sustainable Development Council’s chairman, Professor Frank Convery, noted the importance of being informed about the issues that must be addressed in such a debate.

In a new commentary, Sustainability and the Nuclear Option, he spells out these issues, which include clarifying what will happen if the country does not adopt nuclear power, estimating future greenhouse gas emissions with and without nuclear, and analysing options for waste disposal.

Professor Convery notes that the price per tonne of CO2 in the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme currently stands at Euro 23.10, and this cost is likely to increase after 2012 when stricter emissions rules are introduced.

“This price wedge is a crucially important factor in enhancing the commercial viability of both wind and nuclear power,” he writes.

The manufacturing process for nuclear power (and wind power) involves the use of energy, and therefore greenhouse gas emissions, but in operation it is virtually carbon-free.

At a time when Ireland is attempting to lower its CO2 emissions, this is an “important dividend from both the perspective of climate change and in commercial terms”, he argues.

Other issues that Professor Convery said need to be discussed include the security of supply of fossil fuels, and nuclear weapons proliferation.

Ben Meggeson

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