New British nuclear threat after Commissioner goes missing


A decision by the European Commission to give Britain approval to build a nuclear plant just 150 miles from Rosslare is generated considerable concern.

The decision was put to a vote among the EU Commissioners on Wednesday morning in Brussels. However, Irish Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn was on a trip to Italy and missed the crucial vote.

The power station will be built by French company EDF at Hinkley Point in Somerset, in the southwest of England. In the first nuclear plant to be approved for a generation, two reactors are now set for completion by 2023.

The Irish National Trust, An Taisce, lost a legal bid to block the project in August when a court in London rejected its argument that British authorities had not consulted their Irish counterparts before granting consent for construction.

At the time An Taisce spokesman James Nix pointed out that the nuclear power station would be as close to the Irish coast as it was to London.

The new nuclear plant could also lead to a new nuclear reprocessing facility at the infamous Sellafield site, reigniting serious health concerns for people living on the east coast of Ireland just across the sea from the plant.

The sprawling site in Cumbria remains a source of ongoing tension between successive British and Irish governments. The Irish Sea is the most radioactively contaminated in the world, with millions of litres of nuclear waste dumped into it every day from the plant.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan accused Europe of breaking its own competition rules by allowing “massive subsidies” for British power plants. He also accused the 26 County government of turning a blind eye to the dawning of Britain’s “new nuclear age”, which did not take into account the health risks when the plant is being decommissioned.

Sinn Fein’s Michael Colreavy described the proposed plant as a “regressive step”.

“Energy policy under the Tory government has been at odds with public concerns about the environment and people’s health. This is demonstrated by the British government’s fervent promotion of fracking,” he said. “There will be obvious concerns from Irish citizens about the construction of a nuclear power plant so close to Irish soil.”

Michael Moynihan, Fianna Fail spokesman on natural resources, called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to state if he made any representations to British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“Ireland needs to robustly defend its interests here. We cannot stand aside and watch Britain potentially build another harmful nuclear power plant, which could have a devastating environmental impact on the Irish Sea and on the Irish East Coast,” he said.

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