Irish politicians have expressed fears about a new generation of nuclear plants like Sellafield located across the Irish Sea after the British government indicated it intends to build nuclear power stations.
The new British Ambassador to Ireland, Stewart Eldon, said his government was seeking to “tackle climate change and deliver safe, clean, energy at affordable prices”.
“I’m sure the Irish Government would entirely share these two objectives,” he said at a press briefing at the British Embassy in Dublin.
There is grave concern in Ireland that the nuclear plans could vastly increase the already substantial risk to Ireland from the Sellafield plant, which has a Simpson-esque history of radioactive leaks and falsified safety records.
The Labour Party said that accidents at any of the proposed new nuclear power stations could have catastrophic consequences for Ireland.
“We in Ireland will have to put up with ongoing discharge of harmful waste into the Irish Sea as well as with the ever-present threat of nuclear explosion or a major terrorist attack,” said TD Emmet Stagg.
Friends of the Earth called on the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to make a pledge that the Dublin government would never buy nuclear-generated electricity from Britain.
“It would be hypocritical in the extreme for the Government to campaign to close Sellafield and then turn around and let the ESB buy electricity from a new nuclear station,” said spokesman Oisin Coghlan.
Sinn Féin’s Louth TD Arthur Morgan said he will write to British Prime Minister Tony Blair to register his party’s opposition to its nuclear policy.
“Nuclear power can never be a viable option. I will be making very clear to the British government and to the nuclear industry that we are very serious about defending the health and safety of the people of Ireland,” he said.
“Some time ago I raised the issue of Sellafield and ongoing problems faced in Ireland as a result of this nuclear facility with the British Prime Minister in Downing Street. At that time Margaret Beckett was in charge of the Environment portfolio at Whitehall and there were hopes that Britain would be moving away from nuclear power. Today’s energy review indicates a shift in policy which will put nuclear power back in the ascendancy.
“I intend to write to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair immediately to oppose the expansion of Britain’s nuclear industry. I will be making it very clear to the British Government and to the nuclear industry that we are very serious about defending the health and safety of the people of Ireland.”
Meanwhile, a recognition by British Direct Ruler that nuclear power stations would not be built in the Six Counties has been welcomed.
“The British Government knows that the people of Ireland would not tolerate the building of a nuclear power plant here, nor would they countenance the expansion plans for Britain’s nuclear strategy,” said MEP Bairbre de Brun.
“Furthermore, the logic of the Good Friday Agreement is that the British Government will not commit themselves to massive fiscal commitments lasting 30 to 40 years when in real terms their jurisdiction will have ended long before then.”
Ms de Brun said her party favoured a shift towards renewable energy with a particular emphasis on solar and wind power.