Statement on Sellafield to Dáil Éireann by the Minister for Foreign Affairs
Statements on Sellafield
The issue of Sellafield unites this House like no other.
Our common stance is crystal clear:
It is an unacceptable threat, which should be closed forthwith, in a safe and orderly manner.
We have pressed this policy through every diplomatic, political and, where necessary, legal route available.
And we will continue to do so.
In advancing this policy we reflect the overwhelming views of the Irish people.
Indeed, our proximity to Sellafield has helped shape a strong and consistent anti-nuclear policy within successive governments.
And I want to make is clear to the House - this State will not be forced to go nuclear. Recent reports do nothing to alter our stance.
Because the basis for our policy is stronger today than ever, and the reasons we back this policy are worth reaffirming here;
One, the nuclear Safety & Security Issue
'Windscale', 'Three Mile Island', 'Chernobyl' remain powerful signs of the destructive potential of nuclear power. Likewise, Sellafield remains a real and present danger to life on this island.
Two, the Security of Supply Issue
The point not often advanced by the nuclear lobby today is that the proven reserve uranium fuel stock in the world today will last for only 50 years. That's about the same order of time as for proven oil reserves.
Indeed, in the event of more countries opting for nuclear, these supplies will diminish faster. Nuclear is not the unlimited energy supply its supporters say it is.
Three, the Economic Issue
Nuclear power is simply not economically-competitive with gas-fired generation.
This fact is increasingly clear when one builds in the cost of long term storage and plant decommissioning. Capital, operational and maintenance costs of nuclear plants are three times that of a conventional plant.
Four, The System Issues
Under its current configuration, our electricity supply system is not suitable for nuclear. Typical nuclear plants, which supply over a gigawatt of electricity, are just too large for the Irish system. Even the smallest modern Generation III nuclear plant would destabilise the system by delivering too much inflexible base load.
Our Opposition to Sellafield and to nuclear power in Ireland have clear and logical foundations.
And this opposition to nuclear is shared on both sides of the border.
At the recent meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference in London, I stressed our opposition to the construction of any new nuclear plants in the North.
This point has been publicly acknowledged, by my good colleague, the Secretary of State, Peter Hain, who recently stated that;
"There will be no support in the island of Ireland for building a
nuclear power station, the Irish government set its face implacably against that and I don't think there would be any support in the North."
So, the anti-nuclear policy of this House, the Government and the Irish people is clear and it is steadfast.
There is no question of developing nuclear plant in Ireland.
Indeed, the “use of nuclear fission for the generation of electricity” is banned here, under the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999. And it will remain banned.
Some politicians have mischievously asserted that the absence of a specific anti-nuclear provision in the Strategic Infrastructure Bill signals a pro-nuclear shift in Government policy.
Of course it doesn't – nuclear power is already banned – you don't need to re-ban it.
In the same way Child labour is banned – and we don't re-ban it in every piece of labour law that comes though the House!
And in the same way the death penalty is banned, we don't re-ban it in every criminal justice bill.
But this level of point-scoring exemplifies the need for a grown up discussion on this issue.
We are all clearly united behind the anti-nuclear policy of successive governments.
But this non-nuclear status brings with it an onus to provide alternate, secure reliable and competitive energy supplies for Irish families, workers and industry.
Because quite simply, energy supply must meet energy demand
And failure to meet that demand means unemployment, a flight of capitol and profound effects on our economy.
So it's not good enough for us politicians to loudly proclaim anti-nuclear credentials, but then oppose gas pipelines, pylons and inter-connecters.
Being anti-nuclear means advancing real non-nuclear alternatives.
Alternatives which can deliver for Ireland, not at some unspecific future date, but right now.
This Government is anti-nuclear – but we are providing alternatives.
Others claim to be non-nuclear – but offer no alternatives.
That, Cheann Comhairle, is untenable.
Go raibh maith agaibh.