With the lights beginning to flicker on the nation’s energy infrastructure, what better occasion to give voice to the potential of nuclear energy in Ireland.
Currently proscribed by two separate pieces of legislation, the campaign group ‘18for0’ has launched in order to positively affect the national debate on cultivating a domestic nuclear industry.
Named after the belief that 18% of our energy grid consisting of nuclear power could eliminate the need for fossil fuels by 2037, the group campaigns for a citizen assembly to set out the case for nuclear power.
According to the group, such a process to get a nuclear industry on its feet would take circa 12 years including the time required to formulate the necessary regulatory framework. Stressing the normality of nuclear power worldwide as well as the hypocrisy of importing nuclear power while at the same time prohibiting its domestic production, the preferred scenario for the group would be the construction of various small modular reactors.
Consisting of a variety of academics and industry experts the thrust of the group is to integrate nuclear into the general decarbonisation pursuit of the state
The group laid its case for a nuclear future at a webinar conducted this week platforming Kieran O’Brien, former managing director of Eirgrid as well as American academic Mark Nelson to document the lessons learnt from the Texan energy grid’s recent downfall during the winter period.
In a presentation highlighting the growing shortfalls experienced by the Irish grid, O’Brien described the increasing prevalence of so called ‘amber alerts’ indicating a lack of energy available. More common to developing countries in the Middle East, such occurrences have been occurring more frequently driven by failings in wind production and rapid shutdown of various power plants nationwide.
With the energy auction process conducted by the Commission Regulation of Utilities to stave off power outages the energy grid is approaching a very serious crisis come the mid 2020s if not before especially as Moneypoint station is expected to close by 2025.
Advocating for a variety of reforms, including capital investment in the grid the continued use of gas fired generation contrary to the state’s climate targets, will invariably be a necessary option. With the Corrib gas fields at the point of exhaustion, liquid natural gas import facilities will be required, much to the chagrin of the environmental lobby despite concerns over fracked gas.
Among the potential technologies at our disposal to alleviate the energy crunch while placating climate targets, nuclear reigns supreme in providing a relatively low cost, low carbon alternative.
Ireland would not be alone in pursuing nuclear power in pursuit of climate goals. Poland has planned to build a number of reactors to bring nuclear energy production to 16% of its national energy production by the 2040s.
France has signalled its support for nuclearisation in Poland with EDF proposing to cover two thirds of the cost, if its European Pressurised Reactor is chosen.
Concluding on the need to fix the energy auction process to meet immediate demand, a mixture of LNG import facilities, better transmission as well as taking serious the prospect of going nuclear are ways to secure our energy future.
Second up to speak was American academic Kieran Nelson opining on the failures experienced in the US state of Texas with their overreliance on wind powered energy and its contribution to the bout of power cuts which led to deaths over this winter. A potential future for Ireland on account of our wind overreliance to Mr Nelson’s eyes the falseness of the current energy narrative is show plainly in the results of the recent Texan outages.
In a report commissioned by the group, embarking on such a feat could create 1300 long term jobs while mitigating the need to import natural gas or even tap into domestic gas production off the Western seaboard. With Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) providing ideal facilities to the Irish energy market there is no reason for such an option not to be pursued in their eyes.
Objectors to the nuclear option point to the very obvious debacles at Chernobyl and Fukushima as well the lingering issue of the management of waste products. Pointing out the rarity and extreme conditions of the aforementioned disasters the group responds to the increasingly efficient ways of dealing with nuclear waste products utilised worldwide.
Arguments against nuclear become ever more diminished the closer we arrive at energy armageddon. Our current energy regime is juggling many different balls from ensuring constant economic and demographic growth to the indulgence in the absolute extremes of climate mania.
The professional and economic know-how exists for a viable nuclear alternative on the island of Ireland,whether it can come to fruition in the NIMBY prone Irish political system is another issue.